7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Acting Prime, Minister endeavour to arrange with the Imperial Government for larger deliveries of frozen meat under contract, in order to make room at the various freezing depots for increasing supplies, dueto indications of drought conditions, and thus protect stock-raisers from speculative dealers in glutted fat markets?
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). spoke to me on this subject to-day, and I promised to ascertain, if possible before the House met, what could be arranged in the direction desired. I have since learned that a boat will loadnext week at Melbourne - I do not know at what other ports - and I have asked those who axe responsible for the utilization of the insulated meatspace to see me to-morrow, with a view to considering how far it may be possible to meet the new conditions which are intensifying in Australia.
– What action, if any, does the Government intend to take to deal with the price of meat, in view of the fact that neither consumers nor producers benefit from the present arrangement?
– The action of the Government was merely to fix maximum prices.
.-(By leave.) - I move -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the right honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hughes) and the right honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Joseph Cook), who are absent from the Commonwealth on urgent public business, and for the remainder of the session to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Heitmann), who is absent from the Commonwealth with the Australian Imperial Force.
– I think that the names of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Wallace) and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) should be added.
– I have discussed the matter with the Clerk, and understand that the honorable member for West Sydney has been in his place this session, and, therefore, need not be provided for, and that the honorable member for Kennedy expects to be here within two or three clays, and, therefore, will not overrun his time. Honorable members may take it for granted, the authorities of the House having been consulted, that the names of all who need to be provided for are in the motion.
– Mr. Speaker-
-The motion cannot be debated. Standing order 45 says -
Leave of absence may bo given by the House to any member, on motion, after notice - stating the cause and period of absence; and such motion shall have priority over other motions, and shall not be debated.
In this case, the Acting Prime Minister, by leave of the House, moved without notice.
Question resolved, in the ‘affirmative.
– According to the saleyard reports published in the newspapers, there is now a glut of fat cattle in the markets. Can the Minister for Price Fixing inform the House where those cattle were three weeks ago, when there was such a shortage in the market ?
– I have no information to the effect that there was a shortage of fat cattle in Australia three weeks ago.
– I wish to know from the Minister in charge of Price Fixing what is the wholesale selling price now fixed for butter, and what is the price at which the Commonwealth surplus butter has been sold to the Imperial Government ?
– The selling price of butter throughout Australia is 149s. 4d. per cwt. The Government has taken into consideration the circumstances of the recent sales to the British Government, and has decided to make the difference between the local price and the export price the same this year as it was last year, and, as a consequence, the local price will be raised ½d. per lb., or 154s. per cwt. The price per cwt. to the Imperial Government is 175s. .
Public Service Annual Leave
– I understand .that, for the year on which they resume duty on returning from the war, returned soldiers who are employed in the Department of the Postmaster-General lose the recreation leave which is given to officers who have remained at home. I ask thePostmasterGeneral if he will consider the desirability of giving to returned soldiers the same leave as is enjoyed by those who did not go to the war?
– The matter is under consideration, and I shall inform the honorable member when a further decision has been arrived at.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether he is aware that, on Monday last, a Bill was introduced into the Queensland Legislative Assembly amending the State electoral law, and enabling persons to vote at the age of eighteen years ? Is the honorable gentleman aware that the Minister who introduced the Bill stated that, although he had looked through the Commonwealth Bill, he had seen nothing in it which led him to believe that the Commonwealth was taking steps to secure uniformity between the Commonwealth and the States in electoral matters? In view of the fact that this Government is pledged to bring about such uniformity, if possible, will the honorable gentleman forward such facts to the Queensland Cabinet as will make it impossible for them to be without the knowledge that this Government is anxious to bring about uniformity? In view of the urgency of the matter, I ask him if he will do this immediately, so as to possibly prevent the passing of legislation which might hinder the desired end?
– I think that the Queensland Minister is mistaken as to the contents of our Bill; indeed, I do not think that he has had an opportunity of going through it yet. It is very difficult to see all the points on which uniformity is provided for. Three electoral officials agreed upon certain lines of drafting for the securing of uniformity, and thewhole subject was considered at a Conference held.in 1915, at which all the States were represented. We have taken, as faras possible, the common opinion of the States, and drafted a Bill which may be to a great extent a standard for adoption by the States. If the honorable member would like information in regard to any point upon which uniformity might be aided, I will be glad to get it for him, although to cover all details of administration it may take a week or two to do so. Whatever information is required - in fact, has been made available - in regard to the possibilities of uniformity will be supplied.
” Stead’s War Facts. “
Mr.FINLAYSON.- In view of the fact that the Censor had previously approved of the publication of Stead’s War Facts, the circulation of which has since been prohibited, will the Government compensate Mr.Stead, because the prohibition of the book will prevent his disposal of the many copies that are still on hand?
– The honorable member will realize that his question is not urgent. If he will give notice of it, I shall give him a considered answer.
– The Acting Prime Minister informed me a few days ago that arrangements had been made to ship hides only in equal proportion with leather. I have to-day received a telegram from Geelong stating that the steamer Karatta had left that port with 7,000 hides and no leather. Will the Acting Prime Minister inquire into that statement?
– I have no knowledge of this matter. Of course, it may be that the vessel loaded hides at one port and will load leather at another. I have directed the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department to ascertain, as early as he can, the exact position of the leather trade in Australia. I wish to ascertain what quantity of finished leather is await ing shipment, and I will see that the new arrangement in regard to shipping is operated as early as possible.
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral a question, which is explained by the following newspaper paragraph, for the accuracy of which I can personally vouch: -
I wish to draw attention to the poor provision made at the Norwood Post Office for the payment of pensions to old people and invalids. All day long there is a stream patiently awaiting their turn. As the room holds only about a dozen, the rest have to stand outside in all sorts of weather, as there is not the slightest shelter of any description. It is a shame to keep old people, invalids (including soldiers who have “done their bit”), and women with children in arms, waiting so long under such trying circumstances. No matter at what time one goes, the result is the same. As many business people collect for invalids, this loss of time means a lot to them. The two officials are in no way to blame, as they are working at high pressure all the time; and, with invalid soldiers returning every week, their duties become heavier. One way out of the difficulty would be to make a separate day - old-age pensions one day and soldiers and invalids another.
Will the Minister take steps to give effect to the suggestion to have two pay days for pensions, in order to relieve the congestion, and will hp also invite the honorable the Treasurer to co-operate with him in providing some shelter for these unfortunate people while waiting their turn?
– I shall look into the matter, and, if possible, grant the relief that is desired.
Mr.FOWLER. - Has the Assistant Minister for the Navy read the report published in. the Melbourne Herald of last evening, of a meeting of the Victorian executive of the Australian Society of Engineers, at which certain very serious statements were made regarding the management and general conditionsat the Williamstown shipbuilding yards? Will the Minister inquireinto those allegations; and, if there is any justification for the complaints, will he have them attended to at the earliest possible moment ?
– Iread the report, and already I have taken steps to make the necessary inquiries. I do not desire to say anything further at the present moment.
– One of the rules of the House states that an honorable member may not address to a Minister a question founded upon a newspaper report unless he is willing to go bail for the truth of the statement. As very few of us are willing to take the responsibility for the accuracy of a newspaper report, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if, when the newspapers state that a Minister of the Crown has made some extraordinary utterance, it is competent and proper for me to ask the Minister whether he has said what has been attributed to him in the press
Mi-. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson). - It has been laid down by standard authorities on parliamentary procedure that questions founded on newspaper paragraphs should not be asked, unless the questioner is prepared to vouch for the accuracy of the newspaper statement. In any case, questions without notice should be asked only in regard to matters of urgency in connexion with the Administration, business pending before Parliament, or matters of urgent public importance, with which Ministers are officially concerned.
– On page 250 of the 11th edition, May says -
Nor is it in order to ask merely whether certain things, such as statements made in a newspaper, are true; but attention may be drawn to such statements, if the member who puts the question makes himself responsible for their accuracy.
It has also been ruled by Sir Frederick Holder on several occasions in this House that it is not in order to read newspaper articles when asking questions, or to ask questions based upon newspaper articles; also, that an honorable member is responsible for any statements made in asking questions. In the Canadian House of Commons, the Speaker has given a ruling based on decisions of the British House of Commons that questions founded upon newspaper statements are not allowed.
– In accordance with a promise I made to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) last week, I desire to lay upon the table a copy of the correspondence between the Commonwealth and State Governments in regard to the maintenance of the dependants of soldiers who are absent without leave’.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister yet in a position to make to the House his promised statement regarding the values received, at the various stages, from the producer of the raw material in Australia to the man who ultimately hands over the finished goods to the British Government, in respect of all Australian commodities which are exported at a fixed price ?
– I have not forgotten the promise I made to the honorable member; but the data he requires has taken a longer time to compile than I imagined. I think the information with regard to metals and some of the other commodities is ready now, and I expect to be able to give it to the honorable member some time this week.
– It is reported that the British Government are convening a Conference for the purpose of securing uniformity in statistics relating to the Empire. Have the Commonwealth Government received any communication in regard to the matter, and, if so, do they propose to take any action ?
– A communication was received from the Imperial Government some months ago, and the matter has been under consideration. The Statistician has submitted a fairly ample report upon it, which I have gone through carefully, and it will probably be a week or ten days before I can submit the matter to Cabinet.
-Seeing that the great bulk of the world’s supply of potash came from Germany, and that there are practically no mines elsewhere which can produce it, will the Acting Prime Minister say whether the Government have taken any steps to provide for a supply of this very valuable product after the war ?
– I am unable to say more than that attention has been given to the matter, but if the honorable member will give notice of his question I will give him what information is available.
Post-war Detention in Europe.
– In the event of Australian soldiers being detained in Europe after the war, and employed in the work of restoring the devastated countries, will the Acting Prime Minister arrange that they will be subject to civil tribunals and not to military law?
– At present no one is able to say that Australian soldiers will be detained in Europe at the conclusion of hostilities upon that work; neither am I able to promise that if they should be they will be exclusively under the civil law. At this stage all I can promise is that I will submit the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Defence for his consideration.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister give information in respect to the progress made in the sale of wheat to New Zealand by the Australian Government, and can he say whether there have been negotiations with regard to further sales?
-I am afraid that I am not able to reply to the honorable member’s questions at this stage. The Minister in charge of the matter is at present absent in the country, and I have not been able to get the most recent facts concerning it.
– Has the Assistant Minister forthe Navy seen the statement of Mr. Thomas Brentnall, advisory accountant to the Royal Commission which inquired into the administration of the Naval Department, which rather challenges the explanation of the Minister concerning the discrepancies in regard to claims and payments for fitting up transports, and has the Minister anything further to say in regard to the matter?
– Yes ; I have seen the statement. I refer the honorable member to the columns of the Age, which journal was also deceived in regard to the representations made by the Royal Commission.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that twelve duplicate copies are required to be handed in with any request for permission to import goods from Great Britain containing steel, and does’ he not consider it a gross extravagance, in view of the fact that paper is so scarce, entailing on Government Departments in Great Britain the necessity for using small memoranda, which often have writing on the backs of them, and also entailing in many cases the use of the same envelope twice?
– I am not aware of the fact, but I will have inquiries made.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister taken into consideration the question of amending the Public Service Act so that public servants who do not take advantage of furlough periods may receive payment instead? The matter was referred to in the last annual report of the Acting Public Service Commissioner, and a suggestion to this effect was made.
– The honorable member refers to cases in which furlough has not been taken within the twenty years prescribed, and where, according to the provisions of the Act, it cannot accumulate; that is to say, a public servant may take six months’ furlough at the completion of twenty years’ service, but if he does not do so, he cannot secure twelve months furlough at the conclusion of forty years’ service. The matter is now the subject of correspondence between the Departments, primarily between the Department of the Prime Minister and the Public Service Commissioner, but I do not think that it has reached finality. However, I will inquire into it.
– Has _the Acting Prime Minister seen a report in the press that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy will not return to Australia till next Christmas?
– I did see the report, hut I did not take notice of it, because the Government had previously dealt with the matter. In view of the ra>pid developments in the theatres of war, and what we then hoped was the prospect of an early peace, or, at least, an armistice on proper conditions, Cabinet decided to suggest to the Prime Minister the advisability of remaining in Great Britain until it was seen what these developments would lead to. No definite date can be assigned for the return of the Prime Minister or the Minister for the Navy, whether it be Christmas or any other time.
– Which Christmas will it be ?
– I do not know. What appeared in the press was written- by some quidnunc, who did not know what was in the Cabinet’s mind. Whether the Prime Minister’s stay will be long or short will depend upon the progress of important events abroad
– Several times I have had my attention drawn to the condition of the Post Office at the corner of Elizabeth-street and Bourke-street, Melbourne. On one occasion a medical man who had a -patient in that portion of the building where packages are dealt with asked me to have a look at the condition of the premises. I did so, and, in consequence, a little, improvement was effected; but, in view of a statement which has been published in the Argus of 19 th October, will the PostmasterGeneral inquire into the unnecessarily filthy condition of the building?
– I noticed the elaborate contribution to the Argus in reference to this problem. I appreciate the newspaper’s effort. It will ‘have an opportunity of publishing a reply which I have signed to-day.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether he has had an opportunity for conferring with his colleague on the question of a larger grant or a better allocation, so as to allow of a margin for the purchase of stock and implements, of the £500 per man contributed by the Commonwealth Government as the maximum grant to returned soldiers settling on the land? In many cases now, the value of the house which has to be erected on the land absorbs at least three-fourths of the amount advanced, and there is not purchased with the balance a sufficient working capital in the shape of stock to enable the property to earn a reasonable return.
– The honorable member, last week, put to me a question dealing with this subject, and I promised then to refer it to the Minister for Repatriation. Senator Millen informs me that he has arranged fox a Conference with State Ministers on the subject of land settlement for the 29th instant.
PRICE of Tin Exported.
– A similar question by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) appears on the noticepaper in regard to copper. I am not prepared at the present moment to answer, off-hand and haphazard, questions dealing with important business interests. That is a dangerous practice.
– The tin miners are very worried.
– I appreciate that fact. I can assure my honorable friend, who has shown a keen interest in the development of the scheme which the Government have in hand, that we shall endeavour, in all the arrangements we authorize in regard to the association, to safeguard the primary producer. We are anxious to do so in the interests of the honorable member and the country generally.
Statement by Acting Prime Minister.
– Having learned from an utterly unreliable source that the Acting Prime Minister, speaking at St. Kilda, stated that he looked forward to the inauguration of some kind of Imperial Federation - and he did not care what kind it was - I desire to ask the honorable gentleman if that report represents what he actually said; and, if so, whether he would be good enough to tell us what hehad been taking ?
– I am glad that the honorable member acknowledges frankly, for the first time, that his information comes from an unreliable source. So far as my memory serves me as to the report obtained from the “ unreliable source “ to which he refers, ho has not even interpreted it in a reliable way. I am not aware that any newspaper has reported mo as having said that I was looking forward to some kind of Imperial Federation, I made an allusion to the prob- lem ahead in regard to the future governance of the Empire, but did not commit myself definitely to any form that might eventually foe evolved. The question, however., is not urgent, andcan well await notice. If notice is given of it I haveno doubt it will be phrased, by command of Mr. Speaker, in a more courteous way than it was in itsclosing sentence, as put by the honorable member.
– I withdraw the closing sentence ofmy question.
– Is the Minister for
Trade and Customs aware that a steamer from certain Eastern ports is approaching Fremantle, having on board many cases ofSpanish influenza, a disease that is ravaging other countries? Will he take the most rigid measures to prevent the disease being carried ashore, and see to it that the serum which has been found so beneficial in dealing with the disease is available in Australia, in view of possible emergencies ?
– - The Director of Quarantine has taken every possible precaution at all ports in Australia to deal with any case of Spanish influenza. Nurses and medical men have been secured, and everything is in readiness to cope with the landing of any person suffering from the dread disease. We also have an ample supply of vaccine to meet all possibilities.
– In view of the following statement in acable message from the British Ministry for Information -
It is no good saying more than that the German Government was probably frightened into present apparent changes with the appointment of Prince Max and his support by the German Socialists - not so much by the military situation as by the serious fear of social revolution, which might land the country in the hands of Bolshevik and anarchistelements. will the Acting Prime Minister state whether this communication is to be taken as indicating a change in the foreign policy of the ImperialGovernment, foreshadowing the early recognition of the Soviet republic, and so facilitating an early and general peace?
– It is very difficult to understand by what mental process even the honorable member could arrive where he has in regard to this message. The answer to his question is” No.”
– Australian manufacturers are now providing for the Australian public many classes of goods which previously came from Germany and other countries, and the landing of which in the Commonwealth has been prevented by war conditions. Many havesunk considerable capital in these industries, have improved their equipment and purchased implements, and now employ largenumbers of hands.; and they are a bit nervous as to what wall be their position after the conclusion of the war. Has the Minister yet taken in hand the matter of making the position of manufacturers and others safe when war conditions no longer prevail?
-The subject to which the honorable member refers is not new to the Government, although it is important. We have considered the matter from several of its many aspects forsome time, and have been assisted in our deliberations by the Board of Trade, who have dealt with it in greater detail. We desire, as a Government, to see that industries of a legitimate kind started during the war time shall be preserved, but as to the means by which the preservation shall be attempted I cannot pronounce at this stage. We are, however, in consultation as to how far it is safe to go in view of possible Tariff conditions.
– Will the
Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) inform the House what is to be done regarding vacant land that is now lying idle, and has been lying idle for many months, at Canberra, especially those blocks that have been applied for by returned soldiers, who offeredto make their home and live there, but whose offer as to rent was refused ?
– An arrangement is being made with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) in regard to the leasing of the land. As a matter of fact, a return has been prepared showing all the necessary particulars, and every opportunity is given to returned soldiers to takeup land there. I think the honorable member must be referring to a particular instance, for I do not know of more than one case of a returned soldier being refused land, and that was a case in which the bidding was under the assessed rental.
– Better have some rent than none at all.
– If it were only a minute difference we might overlook it, but we could not, for example, reduce the rental by one half.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways(Mr. Groom) inform the House when a definite start is to be made with the Arsenal at the FederalCapital?
– Approval has already beengiven for the work to proceed, and we are now awaiting the report of the Public Works Committee on the railway. As soon as that report is received, a resolution willbe submitted to the House, and the necessary Bill presented.
– Following on a question I asked some daysago as to the intention of the Imperial Government to present adecoration known as theGallipoli Star to those troops who landed on the Peninsula, I desire to knowwhether any recent communication has been receivedby theGovernment in regard to the matter? Are theGovernmentmaking representations to theImperial Government, and, if so, will theyrecommend that consideration be given to other Australian troops,particularlyto the New Guinea contingent?
– I am just reminded that we have had forty minutesdevoted to questions without notice, but I suppose they must still go oh. It might, I think, be advisable to set one day a week apart forquestions of the kind.
– I like that from the honorable member least of all. There has been a great deal of cable correspondence between the two Governments on the question to which the honorable member for Brisbane refers, and one cable received, I think, this week has gone on to the Defence Department for consideration. I shall see if the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) cannot make available the papers for the information of honorable members.
– I think that the honorable member, and a number of others who are interested in what I call this £10 restriction, are aware that it has formed the subject of much correspondence between the Government andthose concerned. The basis of the agreement has now subsisted for about two years, and although not satisfactory to the country woolbuyer, it appears to be quite satisfactory to the Central Wool Committee. What other arrangements have arisen as to advances between city and country brokers or buyers, I am not prepared to say, because I am not familiar with the facts; but I shall obtain the information, and furnish it to the honorable member later.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Transfer of State Statistician’s Office - Cost of Collecting Income Tax - Electoral Office
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether there is any justification for the following statements of Mr. Holman, Premier of New South Wales, recently made in Sydney, to the effect -
That a proposal to transfer the State Statistician’s offices to the Commonwealth was abandoned because the Commonwealth could not do the work so economically as the State, and that the Federal Government, in anticipation of the change, placed £19,000 for New South Wales on the Estimates for 1917-18, while under State control the Department cost £ 8,000?
That the cost of collecting the Federal income tax amounts to £2 10s. per £100, as against £11s. by the State of New South Wales?
That the work of the Electoral Office costs the Commonwealth nearly three times as much for New South Wales as the State Electoral Office costs that State?
– Generally speaking, the statements of Mr. Holman as reported in the Argus are not in accordance with the facts, and are calculated to mislead the public. That there is no justification for the statements quoted will be seen from the following replies to the questions of the honorable member : -
It is not correct to say that the proposal was abandoned because the Commonwealth could not do the work as economically as the State. At the Conference of Premiers held in Adelaide in May, 1916, a resolution was passed expressing the desirableness of theamalgamation of the Statistical Bureaux of the States and Commonwealth, and inviting each. State to give consideration to this subject. In J uly of this year I received a letter from the Premier of New SouthWales, stating that, after consultation with the States, it was proposed not to take any further steps to give effect to the resolution. It had previously been pointed out that the Commonwealth could do the whole of the statistical work for Australia and effect a considerable saving, as it would mean that the whole information could be obtained in ten publications instead of fifty-six. This in itself clearly indicates a large saving in printing alone. There is no foundation whatever for the statement that the Federal Government, in anticipation of the change, placed £19,000 for New South Wales on the Estimates for 1917-18 (while under State control the Department cost £8,000). No provision of that nature has been made in recent Commonwealth Estimates.
It is misleading to compare the cost of collection of income tax on the basis of the amount collected, for the reason that Federal assessments are more complicated and expensive than those of the States, owing to various causes, among which may be stated the following : -
While the figures quoted by Mr. Holman are approximately correct, the true basis of comparison between the two offices is the “Cost per assessment,” which, in the case of the Commonwealth, is 8s. 9d., covering 129,000 assessments, and in the case of the State of New South Wales about 14s., covering about 45,000 assessments.
Not only does a mere statement of that character give a false impression, but it is impracticable to make a comparison which would not mislead, inasmuch as the Commonwealth and State systems differ radically. Moreover, the State Government has not brought its rolls up to date during the last year, and, having in view the fact that the Commonwealth rolls have been kept up to date according to law, it is improper that such statements should be made comparing the relative costs of the Electoral Office under the State and the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether provision has been made to provide knitting wool for Red Cross and Comforts Funds at or near the cost of manufacture?
– The Government has decided to import supplies of knitting wool in the event of any of the patriotic societies notifying their requirements. The Department is now in communication with the various patriotic societies throughout the Commonwealth in the matter.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are . as follow: -
As to copper ores; the charges made by the smelters have been investigated, and, under the present abnormal circumstances, are not considered to be excessive. This remark also applies to silver lead ores.
“SPEEDING-UP” OF LETTER CARRIERS.
asked the Post master-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the. honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information desired is being obtained and when available will be supplied to the honorable member.
Disposal of Boilers
–(By leave) - I wish to correct two mis-statements made recently in the House in connexion withthe tug. Albert. On Friday last the honorable member for Dalley stated that the reply given to him> regarding the disposal’ of the boilers- taken out of the tug Albert was incorrect. I had no reason to doubt the correctness of the answer, but in order to put the matter at rest I had a. telegram, sent to the general manager, Cockatoo Island, asking Mm. whether all the boilers were sold to Mr. Snodgrass, who had purchased the vessel. His reply is very clear on the point. He states that the Albert had two boilers, and that both were sold to Mr. Snodgrass and taken: delivery of by him. The answer given to> the honorable member’s question was, therefore, correct.
While on- this matter of the Albert, I may be permitted to correct a statement of the honorable member for “Wentworth, who alleged that the engines of this vessel “had been sold by the purchaser to another Commonwealth Department.” I have been in, communication with the purchaser of the Albert, and te has informed me that he sold the engines,, after cleaning and repairing them, to a Captain Arnold, of Mannum,, South Australia,
– A few days ago the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked, whether the Anzacs returned for wounds and sickness will get equal privileges with those returned in good health on furlough. I promised to obtain an answer for the honorable member, and it is as follows: -
Members of the Australian. Imperial Force who embarked in 1014 and who have been invalided to Australia will, if returned to duty on discharge from hospital, be granted the same period of leave and privileges as is given in the case of Anzacs returned on furlough..
– On the 18th inst. the honorable member for Wentworth. (Mr. Kelly) asked the question -
Win the Assistant Minister for Defence make inquiries to ascertain if a photograph recently published in Sydney- of General Chauvel and his staff, is accurate in showing that of thirty- three officers on the headquarters staff, only five arc- Australians?
I promised to. make inquiries, and I have now ascertained that staff and regimental lists of officers, Australian Imperial Force> published; in London, and dated August, 1918, show that units in Egypt and Palestine are. commanded, by the officers- named hereunder -
– On the 18th inst. the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) asked the following question: -
In view of the possibilities of an early peace and the known want of certain commodities in Australia, has the Government taken any steps to ascertain our needs and their respective urgency, with a view to replenishing the stocks of commodities from British sources as soon as the declaration of peace will allow?
A reply was made that if notice were given of the question the matter would be considered. I desire now to inform the honorable member that definite action has already been taken in the direction indicated by him.
– On the 18th inst, the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
A reply was made that inquiries of the authorities concerned were not complete. I have now been supplied with the following answers to the questions : - 1, 2 and 3. The Commandant, 3rd Military District, has furnished the Minister with the following report in this matter: - The procedure adopted was to have Mr. Greenwood examined by a Medical Board at No. 5 Australian General Hospital, at the instigation of the Deputy Director-General Australian Army Medical Service. This procedure is not a routine one, but is frequently carried out. A special Medical Board was not appointed. The personnel of the Board was as follows: - Lt.-Colonel S. G. L. Catchlove, Captain H. E. Featherstone, Captain H. M. James, and was appointed by the officer commanding No. 5 Australian General Hospital. The finding of the Board, dated 30th September, 1918, after consideration of Mr. Greenwood’s past medical history, was that he was medically unfit for service in the Australian Imperial Force permanently. The usual preliminaries of answering questions prior to medical examination and signing attestation form are not carried out by any Medical Board at No. 5 Australian
General Hospital. Certificates of medical unfitness were produced from Dr. J. F. Wilkinson and Dr. Kitchen. Dr. J. F. Wilkinson is a military medical officer with the rank of major, and is at present doing full-time duty as senior physician at No. 16 Australian General Hospital.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, 1918-19.
Post and TelegraphRates Bill (No. 2).
The f ollowing papers were presented : - .
Factories - Commonwealth Government Factories - Reports for year ended 30th June, 1917.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Randwick, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Ordinance of 1917 - No. 7 - Supply 1917- 1918 (No. 2).
Ordinance of 1918- No. 9 - Supply 1918- 1919 (No. 1).
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 188 (substituted copy), 196 (substituted copy), 266, 267.
Soldiers Absent without Leave - Correspondence between the Commonwealth Government and State Governments as to the Treatment of Dependants.
Netherlands East Indies - Correspondence respecting the Despatch of a Dutch Convoy to. (Paper presented to the British Parliament.)
Roumania - Observations by the Allied Ministers at Jassy with regard to the Conditions of Peace imposed upon Roumania by the Central Powers. (Paper presented to the British Parliament.)
In Committee: Consideration resumed from 18th October(vide page 7110).
.- I desire to make a few remarks concerning the Royal Commission which investigated Navy and Defence administration, and to advance reasons why the vast sums of loan money set out in this Bill should not be expended. The gentlemen who comprised that Commission are well known. They are - Mr. W. G. McBeath, chairman; Mr. James Chalmers, and Mr. Frank Verco. These gentlemen have presented a very scathing report upon the conduct of the Navy Department, but whilst giving them credit for the courage which prompted them to say as much as they have said, it appears to me that they have not gone quite far enough. In pointing to grave irregularities, for example, they have neglected to mention the names of the gentlemen - Cabinet Ministers or otherwise - who must be held responsible for those irregularities. For example, in paragraph 5 of their report they say -
The control of the Navy Department by a Board of experts, with the Minister as President, is undoubtedly sound in principle. Instances have been furnished to us where a Minister has incurred expenditure either without reference or in opposition to the Naval Board.
Who is that Minister, and what were the instances in which he incurred expenditure without reference to the Naval Board, or in spite of the opposition of that Board? I am sure that Messrs. McBeath, Chalmers, and Verco will admit the reasonableness of the demand that they should furnish the people of Australia with the name or names of the Minister or Ministers who were guilty of such irregularities. The Commission proceeds -
This would not occur under a proper scheme of control. It is impracticable for any Department to be managed efficiently when a Minister ignores the decisions and opinions of experts in matters not involving questions of policy.
In paragraph 6 of their report the statement is made: -
In addition to the primary reason referred to above, for the non-success of the Naval Board in its administration, the then Minister supplied a further contributory factor by issuing the following instruction on the 7th April, 1915: - “Each member of the Naval Board will have the right to bring matters for which he is primarily responsible direct to the Minister, or he may send routine matters to the Minister through the Secretary. Each member bringing any matter forward shall make his recommendation in writing thereon, and may ask, in addition, that the opinion of pome other member of the Board be obtained, or that the recommendation and subject-matter be referred to the whole Board. The Minister will either approve or not approve of recommendations, or defer consideration, refer to other member of the Board, or refer to meeting of whole Board.”
As a result of this instruction the Naval Board practically ceased to exercise its functions as a Board.
– The same minute was observed in the Defence Department, but the Commission took no exception to it th ere.
– That circumstance proves nothing, because the military branch of the Defence Department has been in quite as deplorable a state as has the naval branch of it. Paragraph 7 of the Commission’s report says -
Admiral Henderson stated that one of the most important provisions in the formation of a Navy is the “ selection and appointment of a Naval Board, which, by the reputation and qualifications of its members, will command, not only the confidence of the Commonwealth, but will possess also the confidence, loyal sympathy, and support of the Navy it administrates.” It might reasonably have been expected that the members of the Naval Board would have been sufficiently handicapped in carrying out their duties under the conditions already mentioned without themselves creating a further hindrance to their operations. We regret to find that the relations existing between the members of the Board have not been such as to be conducive to the efficient working of the Board’s system of administration.
To my mind, the Commission have again failed in their duty by neglecting to disclose the names of those officers who have so poor a conception of their functions as to quarrel amongst themselves in war time.
– Do not these people always quarrel?
– I am surprised that the honorable member should endeavour to treat this matter lightly by affirming that these people always quarrel.
– I say, “Do not they always quarrel?”
– What is the meaning of that inquiry? Is not the honorable member endeavouring to make an affirmative statement when he asks that question? He has no right to make an interjection unless he is prepared to prove the accuracy of his statements. Does the honorable member ask the public to believe that it is impossible to secure proper naval administration by means of any Board, because people sitting upon Boards always quarrel?
– Members of Boards very often do quarrel.
– I do not understand the object of the interjection. The report of the Commission continues -
In addition, the Board and the Department generally have greatly suffered by reason of the fact that a finance member has not been appointed to the Board since the withdrawal in March, 1914, of Fleet Paymaster H. W. E.
Manisty, E.N. It is incomprehensible that a Department spending £7,000,000 per annum should endeavour to conduct its affairs without the services of an expert to scrutinize all financial proposals and to insure that due regard is being paid to economy. The members of the Board have from time to time directed attention to the disadvantages under which they have laboured in this respect. Shortly after our appointment the present Minister sought our advice on the subject, and explained that the Naval Board was divided in its opinion regarding the most suitable officer for appointment as finance member.
The report continues to the effect that since that matter had been in abeyance for so long, it was considered that it might be further deferred until after the completion of the investigation into the departmental administration.
I direct attention now to paragraph 28, under the heading “Departmental Frauds “-
Publicity has already been given to the details of the frauds perpetrated by an official named O’Donoghue, formerly employed in the Contracts Branch, and we have endeavoured to ascer’tain the weaknesses in the system which enabled frauds of such magnitude to be committed and continued over a period of three and a half years. In- certain cases O’Donoghue misappropriated funds actually due to the Department, and in these instances the fact that he was enabled to continue the frauds over such an extensive period indicates the existence of faulty methods in the departmental system. In other cases, he was successful in inducing certain firms having dealings with the Department to pay over to him moneys to which the Department had no claim. In these cases the fault obviously lay in the unquestioning credulity of the firms concerned.
The Commissioners failed in their duty. They should have told the public the names of the firms guilty’ of such “ unquestioning credulity.”
– They should have given the names, so that honorable members might have made an effort to get something out of their “ unquestioning credulity.”
– They might turn out to be gentlemen on the recruiting platforms, who have been urging youths of eighteen to .go to the Front to do their patriotic duty. They would feel strongly on the question of patriotism, without a doubt. The report continues -
Dealing with the cases where the departmental system was at fault, the funds were manipulated in connexion with - a) Securities lodged on accepted contracts;; (6) deposits on plans and specifications; and (c) freight earnings. In none of the foregoing cases should the moneys have been handled by
O’Donoghue, nor had he the proper official authority to request payment. The fact that a subordinate .officer of a Government Department made repeated personal applications to tenderers and contractors for payment of moneys should have raised a doubt as to the bona fides of the transaction.
– Could any Government prevent such a thing occurring?
– Of course it could.
– If the honorable member went down the street, and people were foolish enough to hand him money simply because he stated that he represented the Government, how could we stop it?
– The Commissioners explain that these “ unsuspecting “ business men should have been aware of the position, seeing that there were other persons requesting payments. But this individual was a subordinate official. Does any one mean to assert that business men who are in a sufficiently large way to conduct business with the Government should not have been aw.are of the status of an official who comes to them demanding payment of money due to the Government ? We would like to know, and the Commission should have told us, the names of those firms who were so credulous, unsuspecting, and innocent - such babes in the commercial wood - that they never suspected this subordinate official who came asking for huge sums of money.
– That occurred while the honorable member was in the Ministry, and the man was prosecuted. The honorable member had all the evidence about it.
– Was that so? Supposing that I was Treasurer, would I sign approval for those amounts? If they came to me as Treasurer, they would come with the approval of the officers of the Department. I am prepared that my observations in connexion with the accounts of the Defence Department shall be inquired into. There are certain documents in the Department of the Treasury in which the Auditor-General drew the attention of the Treasurer to certain irregularities om the part of an officer in the Defence Department. I am speaking now from memory, but I insist that I know nothing of the O’Donoghue frauds.
– I did not say it with any disrespect.
– The Minister is blaming me for those frauds, because, if I knew anythingabout them, I was as responsible as anyoneelse. I know nothing about them, however ; and, in my own defence, I repeat that the Auditor-General drew attention to certain irregularities in connexion with an officer of the Defence Department, whose name, I think, was Kitts. I trust that I am doing that person no injustice inmentioninghis name; but I am under the impression that that iscorrect. As Treasurer, I asked why those matters had not been brought before me earlier. I believe the Auditor-General had signed his letters upon the subject during the month of April, and I do not think I saw them until July of the year in question. Of course, it must be said for the officers that at the time an immense amount of work was going through the Treasury, and this letter was not referred to me personally, but to the Secretary. I think that when the Auditor-General has occasion to take exception to the work of any particular officer, and addresses a letter to the Treasurer on the subject, he should mark it “personal,” so that the Treasurer would be bound to see it. However, I drew the attention of the Minister for Defence to the matter, and asked if the Department were going to continue this man in their employment.
– Did the present Government appoint all these people to whom you are referring?
-Which people ? The honorable member might be more explicit.
– The people referred to in that report.
– The present Government appointed one of their Ministers. Can any honorable member say who was Minister for Defence in August, 1915?
– Senator Pearce.
– But this Government did not appoint them.
– This Government appointed Senator Pearce as Minister for Defence, and he was Minister for Defence in 1915; and I say that I drew his attention to the Auditor-General’s comment upon this officer in the Pay Branch in Sydney, but in spite of my representations, the officer was kept inthe Department. Of what use is it, therefore, for the Assistant Minister to endeavour to saddle me with any responsibility in connexion with the irregularities of the Navy or the Defence Department?
– The honorable member is quite correct about those letters in regard to the Sydney case, because I went through the same documents.
– And did the Assistant Minister see my notes ?
– I did.
– I presume, then, that he approves of the action I took.
– I do.
– We ought to get the names of these firms. I am sorry that my time is rapidly passing, as this matter should be properly dealt with.
I shouldlike also to refer to the important question of fitting up transports, in connexion with which the Assistant Minister endeavoured to reply to my comments on Friday last. TheRoyalCommission on this subject said -
In the early stages of the war the work of fitting up ships as transports was carried out by a firm of contractors, Messrs. W. C. Cone and Company, who, in turn,sublet various sections of the work to other contractors. The terms of the original agreement made with Messrs. Cone and Company provided - (1) That the contractors be reimbursed the actual amounts paidforday labour,plus 10 per cent, thereon.
There were certain other conditions, also, which I shall not read just now.
– The more they paid, the more commission they would get.
– The original agreement was cancelled.
– The Commission goes on to say -
Thedepartmental records show that, from August, 1915, to February, 1916, disputes arose between the contractors and the Department, and in the latter month the Acting Director of Naval Accounts stated, in reference to aclaim for £27,688, that “ the deductions might amount to £15,000,” and recommended a payment of £7,000. On the 26th June, 1916, the Acting Director of Naval Accounts reported that “the examination of accounts which has been made shows that deductions totalling at least £20,000 will be made from the abovebalance.” Notwithstanding the necessity for taking these deductions into consideration when settlement was being effected, it seems almost incrediblethat the contractors’ claim for £29,877 was met by a payment of £25,850.
The Assistant Minister for the Navy, referring to this matter on Friday last, said -
The statement of the Royal Commission on Navy Administration, that the Acting Director of Navy Accounts had recommended a payment of £7,000 in connexion with a claim for £27,688, and that £25,850 was eventually paid, required amplification. The payment of £7,000 was not recommended by the Acting Director of Navy Accounts in final settlement of a claim for £27,688, but as a progress payment only in respect of the total claim of the contractor, which claim on final rendering amounted to £177,330.’
In reply to this statement, Mr. Thomas Brentnall, the advisory accountant to the Royal Commission, said -
Mr. Poynton’s comments do not impeach in the slightest- degree the absolute and literal correctness of the paragraph in the Commission’s report. Indeed, the Department’s records tell their own story in almost precisely the same language. It could not possibly be inferred from the report that the £7,000 was a “ final “ payment. On the Department’s own admission it was anticipated that deductions of £15,000 might have to be made from a claim of £27,688, so that at the time when the £7,000 was paid the Department itself thought it was liable for at least £12,6S8. The reference to the total claim of the contractors, viz., £.177,330, has no bearing on the point at issue, lt was never suggested that the sum mentioned in the Commission’s report represented the full amount of the contract for fitting up transports. It is self-evident that a large part of the differences between the Department and the contractors must have accrued during the earlier stages. It is impossible to imagine that such a serious discrepancy could have arisen in connexion with the last transactions only of a contract which involved payments of £177,330. The gravamen of the Commission’s report is that there must have been * lack of method and system in dealing with claims for services rendered,” and the Ministerial statements have furnished no evidence to refute that charge.
It is useless, therefore, for the Acting Prime Minister to go about making speeches to the effect that the Government are exercising a wise economy when they are allowing this kind of thing to be carried on. It is no reply to say to exMinisters, “ Well, you were in office,” because this Ministry came in to alter things. We were told by the Prime Minister, who is now making such insulting speeches abroad, that we had returned to responsible government, inferring, or course, tE*at under the Labour system of Caucus rule, and election of Ministers by Caucus, there was not responsible government. When the change came, the Conservative papers also declared that we had returned to responsible government; and I now point out that while we have responsible government, with a majority of fifty-three to twenty-two, these things are allowed. I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) that there appears to be a deplorable lack of a proper sense of responsibility about the members of the House, who do not scrutinize sufficiently the expenditure of moneys.
– Has this House ever had an opportunity, since you have been in it, of criticising the Estimates?
– The honorable member will realize that, as a rule, it is the practice to bring the Estimates down late, but that does not absolve members from the responsibility of availing themselves of the opportunities which do arise for criticising Government expenditure and administration.
– Did it not apply to the earlier years of the war?
– The Commission point out that this has been going on during the whole period of three and a half years.
I shall have some remarks to make, when an opportunity offers, about the Auditor-General. I do not like to be unkind, but when one finds that the Auditor-General has reached an age at which he appears to be no longer fitted to carry out his duties as they_ ought to be carried out, it is one’s public duty to mention the fact here, and that gentleman ought to retire.
– He is a first class man.
– He is, and has been, a first class man, but he is over seventy years of age, and not in a position to stand up to a Ministry. He has asked for officers, and the Treasurer actually referred his request to the Secretary to the Treasury. I have every respect and admiration for Mr. Collins’ ability as Secretary to the Treasury, but the Treasurer did wrong when he submitted . to that officer the request of the AuditorGeneral for extra officers. Had. Mr. Collins realized his responsibilities and his duties, he would have said to the Treasurer, “ Surely I have no right to be consulted as to the number of officers that the Auditor-General shall have to examine and audit my accounts.”
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. - There can be no doubt that the time has come - personally I think it came some years ago - when some of the items which the House passes year after year with such a light heart, should be more carefully considered.We have had reports over and over again on theCockatoo Island dock, but we never seem to get any improvement.
– It is almost as bad as Home Rule for Ireland.
– Yes, except that we are asked to pass year after year increased sums for this financial graveyard, and the question ought to be seriously tackled without further delay. Its whole history is most unfortunate. The New South Wales Government passed over to the Federal Government a worn-out article, and then created a first-class article to compete with it at less than half what they got from us. I am not blaming the New South Wales Government so much for what they did as I blame those who were responsible for advising the Federal Government of the day that the amount should be paid.
– Who were they?
– I could not say what Government was in office at the time.
– That is not the only “ pup “ that has been sold to us.
– Unfortunately it is not. It does not matter what Government was in office at the time so much as it does whether we should go on squandering money on a machine which every member knows is incompetent to do the work which we are asking it to do. Take the building of the Brisbane alone. It cost far more than twice as much as a similar ship constructed in the Old Country.
– Was the cost of the extra work required for launching the Brisbane put on to the cost of the ship?
– I believe so. The matter requires serious consideration. The House is asked session after session to pass enormous sums to try to patch up this incompetent, useless, worn-out machine. It is time we took a stand, and said, “It is better to dismantle the whole thing, start afresh, and get a new up-to-date dock yard where we can do our work.” No one will be bold enough to say that that dockyard can ever be made a thoroughly good one.
– It is about the most impossible place that could have been chosen for the purpose.
– Absolutely , and the New South Wales Government sold it because they knew that.
– Every man in this House has to share the responsibility for the purchase.
– There were men in this House who tried to stop the deal coming off until more inquiries were made, but the majority decided to take the dock over.
– What Government was this?
– The Deakin Government.
– It is not so much a question of what Government it was.
– It was not the Deakin Government. It was the Fisher Government.
– To me it does not matter which Government it was. My point is that we are throwing huge sums of money year after year into this financial sink, when every member knows it is quite impossible to get a return for the money we are spending on it.
In regard to Naval Bases, every one knows that the whole system of warfare is in the melting pot, and these works should be hung up, because no member of the House, and no adviser of the Government can say, with any degree of confidence, that, if we build the docks on existing plans, they will not be found quite obsolete by any up-to-date man who may be brought out to report on the new systems of warfare engendered by the present war. Yet we are passing hundreds of thousands of pounds for the construction of Bases which a good many believe will be obsolete and useless when we have finished them.
Exactly the same applies to the Arsenal. I do not want to repeat what has often been said here about the rifles we are turning out at Lithgow. Even before the war they were costing more than twice as much as similar articles were being made for in America with exactly similar machines.
– According to the honorable member, it would be impossible for the government of the country to be in more incompetent hands than the present.
– With me, it is not a question of what Government is in office. Ministerialists, members of the Opposition, and those who take a more independent course, must accept individually their full and complete share of responsibility for every item we pass. I am not one of those who hold that, because a member sits on the Ministerial benches, he is relieved one iota of his individual responsiblity, any more than is a man sitting on the Opposition benches.
– But Ministers do not take any notice of what you say.
– Does any body take any notice of what anybody says in this House?
– The fact that Ministers take no notice of what is said, or that a majority holds a different view, does not relieve a member of the responsibility of expressing his opinions. I am glad that this feeling of individual responsibility is growing among members. Should a division be called for on the Naval Bases item, I shall vote to hang up that expenditure for the present and I shall vote similarly against the Cockatoo Island Dock expenditure and the general Arsenal expenditure.
– What is to prevent the honorable member from moving to strike out those items?
– That is unnecessary, because they will be put separately from the Chair, and I mean then to vote against them.
– I understand that the schedule, as a whole, is before the Committee.
– The Chairman, if asked to put the items separately, will do so. I intend to ask you, Mr. Chairman, that they may be put separately. Honorable members will then have an opportunity to vote against them, an opportunity of which I shall avail myself.
.- Had I not asked a question about the Murray Waters expenditure, the Bill would have been passed by 11.30 o’clock on Friday morning last.
– And it would have been through on Friday afternoon had it not been blocked by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs).
– Yes. He raised certain points, and that prolonged the discussion.
– I was absent in my own State on public business.
– I am not reprimanding the honorable member, nor any one else. There should be greater care exercised in regard to the public expenditure. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) referred on Friday to the appointment of an officer who was in charge of certain work.
– He referred to past expenditure.
– I know that the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) is absent because of a deputation which is waiting on him, but I should like to tell the Minister who is at present in charge of the House (Mr. Groom), that the shipbuilding proposals of the Government should be made clearer. In a statement read by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) at the beginning of the present series of sittings, we were told that the Government intended to introduce a Bill to deal with the labour problem connected with its shipbuilding enterprise. The Acting Minister for the Navy had said previously that it was the intentionof the Government to contract itself out of the Arbitration Act so far as shipbuilding was concerned . If that is done, Ministers will be looking for trouble. Complaints about conditions are now being, made by the Australian Society of Engineers, and workmen belonging to other unions are complaining of certain statements of the Minister, which, he says, can be explained. He is alleged to have declared that shipbuilding is not going on well because the employees are raw at the work. Shipbuilding has not been done in Australia to any great extent. We have heard of “building castles in the air,” and we seem to be largely building ships in. that way ; at any rate, there is a lot of talk and very little being done.
– They are doing very well at Walsh Island.
– I hope that they will do well everywhere in Australia, where natural facilities for shipbuilding exist. Of course, some localities are better suited than others to this enterprise, and mistakes may be made through the desire to spread the work over the Commonwealth.
– Why run down the Government in regard to things that it is doing well?
– If I thought that it was doing well, I should not run it down. A retrograde step will be taken by Ministers if they contract themselves out of the Arbitration Act. Parliament has declared that every person shall have the right to appeal to the Arbitration Court, and the Government should make access to that Court more easy. Industrial turmoil and trouble arises because of the difficulty of approaching the Court. If the Government is doing right in contracting itself out of the Arbitration Act in respect of shipbuilding, it should logically contract itself out of the Act in respect of all enterprises connected with the defence of the country. Do Ministers intend to set up one rule for themselves and another for private employers? If they do, they are looking for trouble. I trust that wiser counsels may prevail, that access to the Court may be made easier, and that the machinery of arbitration may be simplified. There is great room for improvement.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has spoken of the need for closer supervision of expenditure. The Budget and Estimates of expenditure were put before us about a month ago. Since that time we have passed several pages ofWorks and Buildings Estimates, the expenditure provided for amounting to £454,951, and we are asked now to deal with several more pages on which the expenditure provided for is £1,242,194, and between these two sections of the Estimates is another section, in which the expenditure of £78,914,809 is provided for. Probably a little before Christmas, at the tail end of the present series of sittings, and at an early hour in the morning, when few members are present, we shall be asked to deal with these proposals in halfanhour or so. The question may be stated from the Chair “that the remaining pages of the Estimates be passed.”
– That is the system, and it is a rotten one.
– It should be altered. The responsibility is on all of us, Ministers and members alike, to see that there is fair and free discussion of proposals for expenditure.
Mr.Sampson. - It is the Government that controls the business of the House.
– Yes, and the businesspaper can be so arranged that members may not have an opportunity for discussion.
– We agree with the honorable member that there should be proper discussion, but he must not blame the present Government for the system that now prevails. It is no worse than that to which the honorable member belonged.
– It is certainly no better. It has a huge majority, and its supporters recently passed a new Standing Order further limiting debate, under which a certain time can be allotted for the discussion of any particular piece of business. Sufficient time should be allotted for the discussion of the Budget to enable the expenditure proposals of the Government to be fairly considered. The honorable member for Capricornia has suggested that the Auditor-General, because of his age, may not be strong enough to stand up to Ministers.
– What is the opinion of the honorable member for Grampians on the point?
– The honorable member for Grampians is the last man whose opinion I would ask, because he has interjected respecting every man whose name has been mentioned in the House, “ He is a good man.”
– Is it fair to blame the Auditor-General if it be true that he has asked for additional assistance, and cannot get it ?
– That is my point.It is useless to have an Auditor-General’s Department if it is denied an efficient staff. The audit system must be effective, and the Department must be able to do the work.
-Owing to the absence of all the Ministers, I ask that a quorum be formed.
– Two Ministers are present.
– Where is the Assistant Minister for the Navy?
– He is receiving a deputation.
– He ought not to be absent while his Department is being discussed.
– That comes well from an honorable member who has been absent for a fortnight attending to his private business, and trying to make his seat secure. [Quorum formed.]
– The statement has been made that the Auditor-General has .requested that additional assistance be granted to him, and that the Government have refused the request. We should have a statement from the Government as to whether or not that allegation is true. Probably the AuditorGeneral has not been strong enough to stand up to the Government, an:l insist on getting the assistance which he says is absolutely necessary. Some honorable members have suggested that the amounts in the schedule of this Bill should be subdivided in order that they may be dealt with separately. I shall support honorable members in every effort tha’t will permit of a fuller and fairer discussion of the various items.
.- There are some items in the Bill to which I strongly object, and I am sorry that the Government have not acted ‘ with more consideration and foresight in regard to the Arsenal. They are proceeding in the same old unbusinesslike and slipshod style. A small amount for the Arsenal is placed on the Estimates, but the Government have no idea of what the ultimate scheme is to be. We had the same experience with the Small Arms Factory, and a dozen other Government undertakings. I am not opposed to the Arsenal ; on the contrary, I am very earnest in regard to it, and all other matters of defence. But I am anxious that these works should be started properly in the interests of efficient defence, and in the interests of the taxpayers. I know the history of some defence works, and I am of opinion that if they had been carried out as an ordinary business company would carry out any big undertaking, we should have got mach better value for our money, and the factories would be in a far more efficient state than they are to-day. The Small Arms Factory is an instance. Money was placed on the Estimates for the Factory, and Parliament was given certain information. The so-called experts of the Defence Department submitted reports as to what the plant should be, and what the rifles would cost. Machinery was supplied to the Factory in accordance with those reports, and to-day it is being operated by about twice as many hands as the American contractors said it would need. Moreover, the rifles being produced at Lithgow are not being used by our troops abroad. There may be a good reason for that, because I understand that, since the war broke out, the Imperial authorities have adopted an improved pattern of rifle. At the same time, the Factory is not producing anything like the number of rifles it should be producing, and, generally, the establishment is not coming up to expectations In every instance, the buildings cost more than we were led to expect.
– I ask the honorable member not to go into the details of that matter.
– I am alluding to the Small Arms Factory merely as an illustration of what may happen in connexion with the Arsenal. Millions of pounds will be involved in the housing scheme, and in the erection and equipment of the Arsenal; and we are starting in the same old piece-meal, slip-shod fashion. There has never been a proper business investigation of that proposition, and the Government cannot tell the Committee where we shall be ultimately landed. I intend to oppose the item for the Arsenal, on the ground that there is no need to proceed with the work until the war is over. Whether there will be a need for the Arsenal after the war is a question that should be determined by the best military authorities in the Empire. We can well afford the ex,penditure of a few thousand pounds on preliminary investigations in connexion with a project of such magnitude, if such investigation will insure that we get a proper scheme. Honorable members can see, at Newcastle, what the Broken Hill Proprietary Company have been able to do in two years. It took the company a long time to get the scheme under way, but they engaged the best experts in the world, and investigated the proposition in a thoroughly business-like way. When at last a commencement was made with the work, they knew exactly what they would get for their expenditure. There is no reason why a Government undertaking should not be carried out in the same way.
– What is the honorable member’s attitude in regard to the Blythe River proposition?
– I do not know whether or not I am in favour of it. I am not at all convinced yet; I wish to know upon what information the Government are acting.
The expenditure in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department also calls for review. The time has come when the country interests must get better treat ment than they are receiving at the present time.
– The honorable member is sanguine.
– Sooner or later, we shall find a way of making the Government toe the mark in regard to this matter. It is time that country telephones and postal facilities should be treated on a special basis. I am sure the people would noi; begrudge the money to make good a small deficiency in the Postal Department if that deficiency has been caused for the sake, of stimulating production, and fostering settlement in the back country. Instead of chipping off a little- expenditure here and there, and obtaining a surplus by saving money in a piece-meal fashion, the PostmasterGeneral would do better, in the interests of the country, and would meet with the approval of Parliament and the people, if he were to adopt a .policy that would give the requisite facilities to the producers. What matters it where the money goes, so long as production is increased, and the back-blocks are settled and developed? Unfortunately, the PostmasterGeneral looks at every proposal from the pounds, shillings, and pence point of view. He calculates the expenditure and the receipts, and insists upon having a surplus. Let us by all means have business methods in the Postal Department, but these country services constitute a special case. Money for them must be found somehow; and if the Minister cannot get it otherwise, he must cut down some of the facilities which the cities now enjoy. The cities are not helping by production to pay the interest on the public debt. If Australia is to pay its way, it must encourage an increase, firstly, of primary production, and then, of secondary production.
– Ministers are not listening.
– They will listen in due time. I do not desire to say anything in criticism of the Cordite Factory. I believe that it is doing very good work; but, having regard to the present stage of the war, I am doubtful whether it is necessary to expend money for new works and extensions at that establishment. If the works are necessary, of course, they must be undertaken; but I do not see any urgency in these proposals, and it might be wise to allow them to stand over for some time. We have reached the stage when the Government must cut off all expenditure that is not absolutely necessary. Definite steps must be taken in the direction of economy; and if the Bill includes provision for any work that can be postponed, that work should be postponed. I hope the Government will set an example in economy; if they do not, they must be prepared for some very drastic criticism.
.- On rea.ding the proof of the remarks which I made on Friday, more particularly in regard to Naval Bases, I found that it might possibly be inferred that I included the present Director of Naval Construction in the general condemnation which I applied to the state of affairs that has prevailed in the matter of Naval works for some years past. So far as I know, this gentleman is in every respect a capable and conscientious officer who has undoubtedly effected a considerable improvement on the condition of affairs that he inherited when he took over the position, but he is heavily handicapped in endeavouring to obtain efficiency and good work in the Departments under his charge. The lesser positions have been filled in many cases as a matter of Ministerial patronage. There are men still in the Department “who owe their billets entirely to their association with Ministers. It is not a fair condition of things for the gentleman who is responsible for carrying out the work.
– I do not think that it is existent to-day.
– There is a case on record in which the Director of Naval Construction endeavoured to get rid of a certain individual under his control, and was unable to secure his discharge. I plead with the Government to give us a greater degree of efficiency than we have at present. Men who hold positions in connexion with work which is being carried out by the Commonwealth Government have admitted to me privately that they are unable to secure that efficiency for which they are entitled to look, and that if they make any bother about it they only bring trouble upon themselves. They are obliged to wink at a great deal that is going on right under their eyes. Almost from the top to the bottom of the
Service there must be a considerable change before we can get the efficiency we require.
Mr.RICHARDFOSTER (Wakefield) [5.15]. - I regret that items which Ministers! knew were extremely debatable, and were likely to meet with considerable opposition on both sides of the House, appear in the schedule attached to this Loan Bill. The Government expect honorable members on this side to support them by agreeing to this expenditure, but I cannot give support to the proposed expenditure on an Arsenal. There are other items to which I am equally opposed. It is about time that honorable members began to realize that the fault in regard to a good deal of excessive expenditure is not confined to Ministers, but that they are also responsible for it. For years past a few of us have insisted on the necessity for economy in different directions,but very little regard has been paid to our pleadings. Honorable members who are anxious to insist on doing their duty by keeping a watchful eye on the expenditure of public money must do more than talk.
– What can an individual member do?
– He can do nothing so long as he is satisfied with talk.
There should be a clear understanding that the Government will intrust the control of these public works to competent and expert officers. I refer more particularly to Naval Bases.
– They will continue under the control of Mr. Settle, the present expert officer.
– I know that he has an excellent reputation, and that he has had an extensive experience of the very best kind ; but I want to know whether the Government propose to insist that he shall be given that authority which every man in his position has a right to have bestowed upon him.
– It is for Mr. Settle to recommend what officers he requires. In every instance his recommendations have been carried out.
– I have given an instance where that has not always been the case.
– I can only say what I am doing as Minister. The officer to whom the honorable member refers is not in the Department at the present time.
– I am very glad to hear it.
– I am delighted to hear the Minister say that he is satisfied with the; capacity of Mr. Settle, and that he proposes to give him that amount of control which an expert is entitled to have. It is quite a new experience so far as this Parliament is concerned. Is it the policy of the Government to carry out these public works by day labour?
– It depends upon what the expert officers recommend.. We generally act on the Director’s advice.
– That is also a new departure; but I am a bit sceptical about it, because I know that responsible officers recommend certain! things because they know that they are in accord with the policy of the Government.
– The general desire of the Government is to have works carried out by contract wherever possible; but individual eases have to be decided according to circumstances.
– I know that there are certain works which must be carried out by day labour for many reasons, and, no doubt, excellent reasons ; but the Government are carrying out many works by day labour, and excellent reasons cannot be advanced for doing so.
– Which Government?
– This Government and Governments which have preceded it. I have not the time to deal with the matter as extensively as I would like to deal with it. I am only sorry that the Government did not continue the Budget debate in the early part of the session, so that many of these matters could be dealt with fully.
– The honorable member realizes the necessity for pressing on with certain public works.
– I do not see the necessity for pressing on with some works, particularly the Arsenal. The financial condition of this country is such that the House should investigate every item of expenditure before it gives consent to it. There is trouble ahead if that course is not followed, and the responsibility will rest, not only on the Government, but also on every honorable member. I do not propose to carry that responsibility, and I shall oppose every item of expenditure on work that is not urgently or immediately necessary. If I know anything of the temper of the House, for the first time in the history of this Parliament very many honorable members intend to take up the position that they will only consent to public expenditure, whether from loan funds or from Consolidated Revenue, upon works that are not only necessary, but also immediately and urgently required. Before we adjourned on the last occasion, there was a very strong feeling, particularly on this side of the House, that, at the present juncture, when, as we hoped, we were approaching the end of a war which has capsized military and naval theories in almost every direction, it might be inadvisable to undertake the construction of an Arsenal.
– Was there not a promise by the present Treasurer that, before any money would be spent on an Arsenal, there would be a full discussion in the House, and a vote taken upon the matter?
– When the Estimates, came on for discussion, that opportunity was given, and a statement was made in, both Houses.
– The Minister’s reply to that interjection is not good enough.
– When the item for the Arsenal was reached, I think discussion was raised upon it by a question submitted by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman), and a statement wa3 made by the Government.
– As usual, the Estimates were left to the very last week. In any case, if the opportunity was given, it was altogether inadequate.
– That is another matter. It was the opportunity promised, and special attention was drawn to it both here and in the Senate.
– We did not consider the Estimates until the last moment.
– The Government cannot be blamed; they provided the opportunity.
– They gave the opportunity during the last week. But we have not had a reasonable opportunity to consider the Estimates in chief during the last ten years. In two cases the Estimates were dealt with in the year following those to which they related. Year after year for the last ten or eleven years the Estimates have been submitted for our consideration in the dying hours of the session. Such a system ought not to continue. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has not assured me that all public works which should properly be carried out by contract will at least be submitted to the test of public tender. The history of the work of this Parliament during the last ten years shows that in connexion with Commonwealth expenditure day labour has had a fairly good trial, and has cost the country from 20 per cent, to 50 per cent, more than the contract system would have done. Department after Department is dealt with by a Royal Commission. And with what result?
– The investigations are all right. But what happens afterwards ? i Mr. RICHARD FOSTER.- Quite so. No action is taken on the reports of these Commissions. In nearly every case the investigations made by a Royal Commission have disclosed a scandalous state of affairs. Again and again it has been shown that public works under the day labour system have cost us from 25 up to 50 per cent, more than they ought to have done. In some instances they have actually cost us 100 per cent, more than we should have had to pay for them. I invite honorable members to examine the reports of the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Works Committee with regard to the application of the day labour system to the construction of our Naval Bases, and. to the statements made in that regard from time to time by the Chairman of the Public Works Committee (Mr.. Gregory). It is a scandal that honorable members individually should be satisfied merely to listen to these stories of ;extravagance and to allow things to go on as before. I have been directing attention to this question for the last ten years, and have come to the conclusion that we shall never get on the right track until we resort to the public tender test. What is the use of appealing to the people to subscribe to our war loans’; and of increasing taxation almost to the breaking point, while at the same time we allow this scandalous system of administration to continue year after year. Have honorable members considered the report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the administration of the Department of the Navy, or the report of the Commissioner on the Federal Capital? Have they considered the last report of the Public Accounts Committee in regard to tha Naval Bases? They know what is going on, but they take no action. In this respect the supporters of the Government are as bad as the Opposition. They ought to know better, and should act in the light of the knowledge they possess.
If we had had a Supply and Tender Board, some of the misappropriations that have occurred, and much of the want of method shown in connexion with our various Departments would not have happened. After years of agitation the Government allowed the Public Accounts Committee to inquire into the question of the establishment of a Supply and Tender Board. The Committee took evidence in the various States, and found that the Supply and Tender Boards operating in some of them were doing magnificent work. The Committee recommended the creation of sur-h a Board for the Commonwealth, but that recommendation has not been adopted. We have a purchase Board in one Department, and a purchase Board in another, but we have not a Supply and Tender Board, although it should have been established years ago. I, for one, shall not vote for another Loan Works Bill until we are assured of a proper system of administration. I challenge the Opposition to show that day labour has not been not only a failure, but a scandalous failure. I have no desire to do away with the day labour system altogether, but I wish it to be put to the test of public tender.
– Would the honorable member say-
– The honNorable member for Brisbane (Mr.N Finlayson) was a member of the Public Works Committee, and did good work on it. He joined with others in making recommendations founded on the evidence, and not upon his own political predilections.
– Was that why he was put off the Committee?
– Yes. The findings of both the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Works Committee should be of a judicial, and not of a political, character. Their decisions should be according to the evidence, and not according to what might suit any one political party. The reports of those Committees should be submitted to Parliament in accordance with the requirements of the Acts under which they are constituted, and the House should have an opportunity to discuss them.
– Does not the honorable member think that their reports have been quite free from party feeling?
– They have been largely, but not wholly, free from party feeling, as I shall show later on by a reference to one of the latest that has been issued.
A few months ago the Minister for the Navy was asked whether the building of the Arsenal was absolutely essential, or whether, in view of the new experiences of the present great conflict, it could not stand over until after the war. I observe that this question was renewed in the House a few days ago, when a statement by the Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) was put forward to the effect that he had asked the Admiralty if the work could not stand aside till after the war, and that the reply was that a certain initial part of the work should be undertaken.
– Is not the honorable member referring to the Naval Bases?
– To the Naval Bases and also to the Arsenal. I am not going to be bound by that statement, because I cannot find in it any evidence of real conviction or sincerity.
– We obtained that statement direct from the Admiralty.
– I am aware of that, but I should like to know whether the Minister for the Navy wanted to obtain such a report.
– Surely the honorable member does not suggest anything of that kind.
– My suggestion is not due to any want of respect for the Minister. I have a very high regard for him.
– Does the honorable member think that the Admiralty would furnish a report merely to suit the Ministry ?
– I only know that the Admiralty did not express its desire in strong terms. I do not intend to vote for any work that might reasonably be held in abeyance for the time being. I certainly do not regard the building of the Arsenal as a matter of pressing urgency, and I appeal to honorable members to do their duty now in regard to public expenditure generally.
.- The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has followed a line of argument that is adopted every time that Works Estimates are before us. There are some honorable members who, as soon as Works Estimates are submitted to us, profess a great desire for economy, and year after year give us the same details, but ‘do nothing more. I have heard the honorable member for Wakefield freely criticise Estimates submitted by previous Governments.
– I have.
– The honorable member ‘ belongs to a party with a majority, and if the Government policy does not suit him, he can vote against it. I know, However, that he will not do that. He says that all works that are not absolutely necessary should be stopped. But who is to be the judge ? Are individual members or the Government to judge?
– Every individual member ought to exercise his judgment.
– I am addressing my question, not to the honorable member who interjects, but to the Chairman. What does the dictum of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Poster) mean ? It means that all public works are to be stopped. Did the Government put that issue before the country at the last election? They pledged themselves to carry on public works, and rightly so, for public works cannot be stopped at a time like this. We all believe in economy, but it is not economy to stop all public works.
– I do not advocate stopping all public works.
– You advocate stopping all works that are not needed.
– But we have to look ahead. The honorable member seems to have a particular “set” on the Arsenal. Is this country not worth defending ?
– Of course it is.
– How can we defend it if we are not prepared to make guns and munitions ? The work of this Arsenal has been too long delayed. We do not know what complications may arise -..hen the war ends, and we cannot make too early a start.
– If there is any earnestness in the statements of a number of leading men all over the world, many of such- works are to be stopped.
– I would not object to that if the conditions justified it. But we have not arrived at that stage yet. The question of the Arsenal has been before the House on at least two previous occasions, and the House has voted the money. The time has passed for the expenditure of a lot of frothy .talk on the subject.
– The matter has never been properly discussed.
– The House has already decided that this Arsenal shall be built.
– When ?
– Has the honorable member been asleep?
– I have not; I have attended and listened to the debates in this House as closely as any one.
– I must ask the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) to refrain from interjecting.
– The Minister in charge of the Estimates will support me when I say that the construction of this Arsenal was decided by the House last session, and there was then an opportunity to discuss the matter.
– The general item was discussed, and the question was postponed on the point of the actual site, which came up later on for decision.
– Have honorable members opposite who attack these proposals so savagely lost all faith in the Government? Can the Government not be trusted with the affairs of the country?
– I think the Government will do the right thing yet.
– And I know how they will do it.” Is the object of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard
Foster) to bring about economic conscription by stopping all publicworks ?
– We are trying to save money, where you would waste it.
– That is the cry of old Conservatives in every Parliament, whose object is to economize at the expense of “ the other fellow.” The honorable member also says that if the works are to be carried on, it should be on the contract system. Does the honorable member approve of that system?
– I said I would make every work subject to public tender - yes,I do believe in contract.
– Will the honorable member advocate that members be paid according to the number of sittings? Or that the Judges and public servants should be paid by contract? Of course, he would not; but when it comes to the case of the working man, with only a few shillings a day, he advocates the contract system, which sweats the blood out of the worker.
– Contractors have to pay award rates.
– You ask the shearers’ opinion on the point.
– I am arguing for the principle of the thing; and if it is good for mechanics, why not extend it to every avenue of life?
Mr.Richard Foster. - I would apply it to you.
– That would be logical; but you do not propose to do so. There are one or two other items to which I desire to refer. There is, for instance, a vote for the extension of the machinery at Cockatoo Island; and I suppose the honorable member for Wakefield would oppose any expenditure in this direction. We are entering upon a big programme of shipbuilding.
– At Cockatoo Island ?
– At Cockatoo Island, and every place where we can build ships. We have been told that the Brisbane cost double what a similar vessel could have been purchased for. That may be; but we cannot build ships economically without up-to-date machinery.
– The manager said that it was the day labour that causedthe extra cost.
– I do not know whether the honorable member has ever been on the Island.
– I have read everything about it.
– That is another matter. If we are to build ships successfully we must, as I say, have uptodate machinery, and the purchase of £20,000 or £50,000 worth of machinery for Cockatoo Island will cheapen the cost, and render the work reproductive. I cannot understand honorable members condemning the Government for expenditure which will have such an effect.
– Who said one word against it ?
– The honorable member said he opposed all expenditure.
– I did not.
– I commend the Government for their works proposal. A new firm starting to build ships, especially cruisers, full of machinery, cannot be expected to compete with old-established firms in other parts of the world. It will be noted that the Adelaide, now nearly completed, has not been half the time on the stocks that the Brisbane was; and that is because of the slips and other appliances all being ready. Any new industry of the kind must be expected to have heavy expenditure at the beginning.
I notice here an item of, I think, £45,000 for the Perth General Post Office. I do not know that that work has ever been submitted to the Public Works Committee, and my opinion is that no expenditure of the kind should be undertaken until the work has been considered by that body. The PostmasterGeneral has a habit of grouping a great number of works together, and I ask whether that is with a view to evade the submission ofworks to the Public Works Committee. If that be so, it is a policy of which we cannot approve, for we ought to carry out the Act of Parliament under which the Works Committee is constituted.
Generally speaking, I am prepared to support the Government in their works policy, which is a right and necessary one under our present circumstances. If we enter upon a policy of rigid curtailment we shall not be doing the best for the country. We shall have thousands of soldiers returning to Australia, and the best employment for them will be on public works of a reproductive and beneficial character. That is a much better way of assisting the soldiers than hand- ing out pensions or doles of charity. I trust that the Government will continue a vigorous works policy, in order to keep the wheels of industry moving.
Lt.-Colonel ABBOTT (New England) [5.53]. - It is proposed to spend £1,242,000, largely for naval and military defence purposes, and I am not here to criticise expenditure on such defence works, seeing that we are now in the midst of a war. I assume that the Government are carrying out those works in accordance with expert advice and opinions received some time ago - that the Minister for Defence would not have the audacity to go on with such works in the absence of advice from military authorities.
– The advice was given in anticipation of the war, with the object of having things ready before the war broke out.
.- We have had about four years of war, and I take it that the Minister for Defence has been in close touch with the Imperial authorities as to the necessity for any changes necessary in the altered circumstances.
– Advice has been given recently in connexion with the different items before the Committee - that is, as to the Naval Bases.
– Could the Minister show honorable members privately the text of the advice given?
– I dare say the Minister for Defence could. I am speaking with regard only to scheme No. 1, with which we are proceeding now, though it is not so described in the Estimates.
.- The honorable gentleman refers to the scheme in accordance with Admiral Henderson’s report.
– When the Naval Director came out, he submitted the scheme known as No. 1 Scheme, involving an expenditure of between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000.
.- As the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has referred to the Naval Bases, I direct attention to the expenditure upon the Flinders - also called Port Western - Naval sub-Base, which, from the point of view of our naval protection, is in exactly the same category as the proposed sub-Base at Port Stephens, in New
South Wales. If honorable members will consult the Budget-papers, they will find that,, already, no less than £471,000 has been spent on the Victorian sub-Base at Flinders. It is proposed, under this measure, to provide an additional amount of £190,000; and assuming that this vote be passed, and the money spent, there will at the close of this year have been no less than £661,519 expended on the Flinders Naval Base. In exactly the same category, and intended to serve identically the same naval purpose, the establishment of a Naval sub-Base at Port Stephens was recommended by Admiral Henderson. It is recognised by all unbiased authorities that, as a harbor, Port Stephens is equal to, if not better than, Port Jackson; and it will be admitted that that is saying a good deal. If the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) were not at present temporarily in the Chair, he could substantiate what I am saying with regard to the harbor facilities afforded by Port Stephens. There is a depth of 42 feet of water there right up to the foreshore, and 60 feet in the basin, and no dredging would be required there at all. The facilities afforded there are greatly superior to those of Newcastle Harbor. Here we have a natural port recommended by Admiral Henderson as a sub-Base, and yet whilst, up to the end of the present financial year, no less than £661,519 will have been provided for the Flinders Naval Base, the total amount expended so far at Port Stephens is £41,000. There is a vote of £25,000 provided in this schedule for the purchase of land at Port Stephens, and, assuming that it is agreed to and expended, there will then have been spent on this subBase only £66,236. I ask honorable members why, if Admiral Henderson’s report is to be relied upon, the Naval Base at Port Stephens is neglected, in order that the money available may be spent upon other sub-Bases.
– Poor New South Wales. Lt.-Colonel ABBOTT.- New South Wales may have been given a fair deal in connexion with other expenditure; but I am considering this matter broadly, from the point of view of our naval requirements, and Port Stephens is required as a sub-Naval Base in connexion with naval operations. I direct the attention of the Government to the fact that
Admiral Henderson, in his report of 1911, suggested, so far as Port Stephens is concerned -
I understand that very little of that programme has been carried out, and yet if these proposals were good with respect to the Flinders Naval Base they were equally good with respect to Port Stephens. We see that a tremendous amount has been spent on the sub-Base at Flinders.
– The amount that has been spent is the amount necessary to enable it to be immediately occupied.
.- I ask why at this late stage, and after four years of war, it is only now proposed to vote money for the purchase of land provided for in the recommendation made seven years ago by Admiral Henderson. He recommended that these works should bs gone on with, and his recommendation has been given effect to in the case of the Naval Base at Flinders. If it was good for Flinders, and I assume that no contrary expert advice has since been received, why has the establishment of a Naval Base at Port Stephens been neglected, and why are the Government today merely asking for money to purchase land there?
We do not know what will happen after the war. We should be selfcontained in the matter of defence, and it is quite probable that we shall have to be. I do not propose to criticise the expenditure in connexion with the Arsenal, the production of T.N.T., the Cordite Factory, and so on, because I believe that it is essential that we should manufacture all the explosives we require. We do not know what international complications may arise after the present war, and the transport of munitions from the Old Country or from America to Australia may present a very serious problem. When our boys return from the war, we may be faced with international complications, and it is quite possible that we may not be able to secure the measure of help and assistance from the Old Country that we have previously enjoyed. We should endeavour to be self-contained in the matter of defence, and in order that we may be so it is essential that we should manufacture rifles and all munitions of war required in Australia.
I recognise that the establishment of an Arsenal is necessary. I should like to remind honorable members that our boys when they went to the Front took certain equipment with them, but on their return they do not bring back the rifles and other equipment they took away. If in twelve or eighteen months’ time complications arose here calling for the defence of Australia, how many rifles would there be in the hands of our boys ? How many batteries of artillery are there in Australia ? We have military trainees coming on and many men returning from the Front. I sincerely trust that a very big proportion of them will return in a condition to render service, and I know they will be found game enough for the work of defending Australia. But what will be our position if we have no batteries of artillery and an insufficient number of rifles ? We cannot expect that all the rifles we require can be turned out in the small establishment at Lithgow, and when they are turned out there, as was mentioned by a previous speaker, they are not quite up to the standard we expected.
– If they are not up to the standard their manufacture should be stopped at once.
– In my opinion, the Government should take special steps to introduce straightway munitions and arms of all calibres from artillery down to small arms, so that we may have in the Commonwealth those things which will be essential if we are called upon to defend Australia.
.- I desire to make some reference lo matters connected with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and when an honorable member is referring to items in the schedule I think the Minister concerned should be present. It seems useless to speak of postal matters in the absence of the Postmaster-General.
I will refer briefly first of all to the statement made by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) in connexion with the production of rifles at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. The honorable member said that the rifles manufactured there are not suitable for military purposes, that they are ‘ not used, and that they are practically ornaments. Those statements are not correct.
– Why not quote the statements correctly?
– I understood the honorable member to say that the rifles manufactured at Lithgow are not suitable for active service work, and that they are not used in active service. I wish to say that the rifles manufactured at Lithgow at present are fit for active service. They have been altered considerably during the last twelve months. The statement is made that the factory is not producing nearly the required number of rifles in proportion to the plant. The increase in the output of rifles which has taken place during the past six months is 200 per week. This increase of output has been accomplished with 200 hands less than were previously employed, and the cost of the rifles at the present time compares very favorably with the cost of rifles manufactured in any other part of the world. The Small Arms Factory at Lithgow at present manufactures, machines such as lathes at less than the cost for which they oan be produced in America.
– I ask the honorable member not to make more than a passing reference to the work of the Small Arms Factory.
– I do not object to public expenditure if the money is expended judiciously. It seems to me that at the present time the Postmaster-General * is spending practically the whole of the amount allotted to his Department in the cities, and is not giving the country districts their due share of expenditure. I have travelled, not only through my own, but also through other electorates in the past six months, and in all the country centres I have visited, I have found that discontent exists amongst postal officials and residents because of the inadequate telephonic and telegraphic facilities provided. In many farming centres there are no such facilities provided. In others one may find a little wayside office erected at a cost of 10s. or 15s., with insufficient accommodation for two persons. When applications are made to the PostmasterGeneral to have these offices remodelled, the reply given is that the revenue derived from these particular centres does not warrant the expenditure.
Some time ago, I brought this question up in connexion with a notice received by two country postal officials that they would be required to find fresh premises for the post-office, as the PostmasterGeneral’s Department had decided to hand over the buildings they occupied to the Home and Territories Department. This occurred in two mining centres where a large amount of money goes through the post-office. I sent two petitions into the Postmaster-General’s Department on the matter, and while my communications were formally acknowledged, I have had no definite reply, and do not know whether these matters are under consideration or not. I have carefully noted the employees in some of the post-offices in country centres, and have come to the conclusion that some of the larger country post-offices are practically baby farms.- I noticed that in many cases the great majority of the employees were boys of from thirteen to fifteen years of age. They are doing what I term men’s work, and are paid at the rate of about 15s. per week. If you require to send a telegram from one of these offices, you will have two ot three little boys surrounding you, and making all sorts of busy inquiries. It appears to me that postal affairs should not be committed to the care of these young lads. It may he the desire of the PostmasterGeneral to economize; but to me it does not seem true economy to employ lads of thirteen or fourteen years of age to perforin the work of mien.
I come now to the payment of old-age and invalid pensions. Upon the days on which these pensions are payable, it is a common sight to see perhaps ^thirty or forty old men and women lined up round a post-office, where they are kept waiting, perhaps, from 10 o’clock in the morning until 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The fault does not lie with the postal officials. They do their best in the circumstances; but they are so overburdened with work that these aged and infirm men and women are frequently compelled to hang around post-offices for a period of seven hours.
– At the Bathurst Post-office recently I saw some twenty or thirty old men and women waiting to receive their pensions. I saw them there at 10 o’clock in the morning, and at 4 o’clock in the afternoon of the same day an old man was still waiting to receive his pension. The conclusion wa3 thus forced upon me that the present system of paying these people is a most incon- ivenient one. It has occurred to me that all the trouble to which invalid and oldage pensioners are now subjected might be overcome by forwarding their pensions to them through the post. Some of those people are obliged to walk 4 or 5 miles in order to receive their pay.
In many instances, too, it appears that country postal officials have to subsidize the Department by means of their labour. In the allowance offices men are called upon to do just as much work as is done in official offices-
– Order! The honorable member is now discussing the general Estimates, whereas the Estimates under consideration cover loan expenditure for specific purposes.
– I am attempting to show that it is not intended to expend the amount allocated to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in a legitimate manner.
– The Postmaster-General has said that all this money is to be spent in the cities.
– I desire to see some of it expended in the country.
– The honorable member will be in order in discussing the matter from that stand-point, but he must not debate the whole question of postal administration.
Mi-. NICHOLLS. - Country postal officials are not being adequately paid for their services. I desire to see a portion of the £220,000 that is allocated to the Postal Department under this Bill expended in country centres. In various places men are engaged in postal duties from 6 a.m. till 10 p.m. for a wage of from £35 to £75 per annum. Mail contractors are carrying mails a distance of 18 miles three times a week, and an additional 8 miles once a week, for £75 a year. Whenever applications are made to the Postmaster-General for increases of pay to these contractors, the departmental reply invariably is that the revenue is not sufficient to warrant it. Upon one occasion an allowance postmaster resigned his position on account of his inadequate remuneration, and the Deputy Postmaster-General thereupon intimated that unless a person could be found to discharge the duties of the office at the same salary, the post-office in question would be closed, and, as a matter of fact it is closed to-day. In another instance, because the revenue derived from an allowance office fell slightly below the remuneration of the postal officer in charge of it, the Department decided to close it. This sort of thing is happening every day in country electorates throughout Australia. I contend that country residents are entitled bo quite as much consideration as are residents of our cities.
The next matter to which I desire to direct attention has reference to a postal officer who was receiving a certain allowance, but who, because he did something in opposition to the wishes of the PostmasterGeneral, was dismissed. I refer bo the case of Alderman Wallace Henderson, J. P.
– Order ! The honorable member must now see that he is discussing matters of general administration. That is not permissible upon this Bill
-Then I shall reserve my remarks under that heading until a future occasion. In conclusion, I desire to impress upon the PostmasterGeneral the necessity for spending more money in providing postal facilities in country districts. Throughout the length and breadth of Australia great discontent exists to-day. I hope that, in the near future, the Postmaster-General will do something to benefit the residents of our rural areas.
.- I have listened with interest to the statements that have been made on behalf of the Ministry in connexion with the establishment of the proposed Arsenal. We have been told that,, after the war, we must be prepared for contingencies, and that it is therefore essential that we should agree to these Estimates. Do honorable members realize that we are now being asked to repeat in connexion with the Arsenal the farce which was perpetrated in connexion with the establishment of the Military College at Dun- tr001] and of the Naval College at Jervis Bay ? In both those cases the first buildings which the authorities set out to erect were the last which were required for actual occupation! Similarly, the money provided on these Estimates includes an appropriation for the erection of “ residential quarters.” I well remember my first visit to the Military College at Duntroon, when I found the landscape considerably added to by a number of very fine residences that had been erected for various officers. These residences were constructed of solid brick and concrete, a-nd. possessed elaborate fronts. They were not too good for the officers who ultimately occupied them, but the money expended upon them might, at that stage, have been much more profitably devoted to the organization of the housing of the cadets at the College, and to providing the general utilities connected with that institution. In the same way, at Jervis Bay, the energies and genius of the Department now so appropriately presided over by the Minister at present representing the Government in the Chamber (Mr. Groom), set themselves to the erection of residences for the Commandant of the College and for the various other officers - all before arrangements had been completed for the accommodation of the boys, or for the general requirements of the College itself. And now it is the same with the Arsenal.
– This is not intended for officers’ residential quarters.
– But that is what it states.
– It has to do with the temporary housing of the workmen engaged in the construction o£> the Arsenal.
– Did any one ever hear anything so comic?
– I do not mean permanent buildings, but certain temporary structures - camps for the men.
– The Minister has not made out his Estimates on the same basis. There is an item with respect to the extension of a railway line at Pine Creek. Every man on that line has to build a “ humpy for himself. Are those “ humpies “ also to be termed “ residential quarters”?
Ifr. Groom.- The £15,000 has only to do with certain specific items, such as rolling-stock. The line is completed.
– The maintenance men will want their “humpies.”
– There is no intention here of misleading.
-;-I am well aware that the Minister is not going to mislead the Committee; but I am intensely suspicious, having had experience of previous efforts on the part of the same Department. Are these quarters to be residential accommodation for the “ big-wigs “ of the works?
– There is no intention to erect any such quarters at the beginning of the scheme.
-Then why does not the Minister wipe out those unnecessary and misleading words, “ including the erection of residential quarters “ ? Whoever heard of a workman’s “humpy” being described as “ residential quarters “ ? Many efforts have been made to uplift the working man; but there have been few such as this description of his “ humpy “ as “ residential quarters.” If the Government employ such a high-sounding name, they may lead the men on the works into a veritable state . of Bolshevism ! It is not necessary further to elaborate the point; but, unless the Minister is either laughing at the Committee, or wants the Committee to laugh at him, he had better delete those unnecessary words.
We are told that the Minister has been approaching the British Admiralty, and has ascertained that it is necessary to go ahead with the Naval Bases. I am inclined to think that, since the Australian Government treated the Admiralty some years ago with insultingly scant courtesy in connexion with the most matured judgment which had ever been given by experts of the Old Country to the Commonwealth, the Admiralty does not take these matters quite so seriously as some of us, perhaps, imagine. With respect to Naval Bases, the whole trend of the world today is to establish Naval Bases in front of the country intended to be defended. When Germany’s naval preparations began to alter the balance of sea power in Europe, the British authorities did not start upon the erection of fresh Bases at Land’s End, but got to work in the North Sea, as near to Germany as they could place themselves. Similarly, Germany established her great Naval Base at Heligoland - not at the other end of the
Baltic Sea,butin front of the country which she sought to defend, and notbehind it. So it is with all the other Great Powers. The Naval Base in Western Australia and the other at Westernport were part of Admiral Henderson’s scheme, and were bases that were looked upon as being invaluable to Australia if she should become involved in war with any country which intended to make naval raids upon us, or to raid our trade routes. The Westernport Base is a torpedo base, intended to protect the trade routes off Melbourne. The other baseis regarded as a refit base for ships whose duties would be to protect our trade routes with South Africa and India. Its strategical value is its value in relation to those trade routes. Since the present war began, the question of whether the matter of our trade routes was to represent Australia’s especial danger has been decided. After this war, if there is to be a special danger to which Australia may be subjected, it will emanate from nearer to this country than the continent of Europe; and it will not be west or south of us. If we consider any development of power, say, in the Republic of China, which might at some day - we hope never - become a menace to this country, the bases required for our protection would be away to the north of Australia, as far up as we could get along the lines of communication. I am not speaking from my own kindergarten basis of knowledge, but have consulted men who are regarded in England as the very best informed along their particular lines of interest. And this problem was always put in the same way to me. The Australian Naval unit itself was designed as a class of ships which was to work in conjunction with a similar naval class provided by New Zealand and the Mother Country. The whole purpose of that combined unit was that it should be fast enough, homogeneous enough, and strong enough - using three bases available north of Australia - to evade capture by a stronger enemy. Until that unit was destroyed it would be difficult for any enemy to invade Australia. And it would be difficult to destroy that fleet because, with its speed and relative size, multiplied by the ports which it could use, it would be a greater force than the enemy could afford to use against it; not greater than the enemy’s full strength, but greater than the strength which the enemy could provide if it detached its forces into three in order, say, to blockade those three Bases. Can any honorable member point to any modern country which has established its naval bases as far away from its probable enemies as could be well managed ?
– The Australian Naval Bases were all built on the recommendation of Admiral Henderson, who laid out a complete scheme, covering the whole continent.
– Yes; and that scheme was based on the potential danger to Australia, at that time, of the only Great Power likely to become an enemy of Australia, Germany. Admiral Henderson’s scheme was based on the possibility of that enemy taking the high seas and raiding our commerce routes. That situation now, however, has completely evaporated. Is Germany to be permitted to remain in the same position with regard to the high seas as in the past? Certainly not. Possibly, the whole situation concerning the high seas will be altered, and the Mother Country intrusted with the sole power of policing the seas in the interests of mankind.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– Before I leave the subject of the Arsenal, I would like to say that the question of location having met with the indorsement of high military authorities, has not, to me, been satisfactorily cleared up. I know the idea of erecting the Arsenal inland, despite the enormous increased charges of production, was at first put forward by a very active, his enemies might say almost obstinate, but certainly a public-spirited civil servant. He seems to have carried that proposition through all its stages, his objection to Newcastle being the belief that, for some mysterious reason, it might not be possible to carry on activities there if ever this country were again involved in war. With regard to that, I can only say that I can hardly imagine this country maintaining the struggle for any length of time if the great cities of the coast, or even if Sydney and Newcastle alone were in the hands of the enemy. If honorable members will look at the constitution of Australia, economically and indus- trially, they will realize that the loss to Australia of those areas would be far greater in war than the loss of Westphalia would be to Germany. Any one who has studied the outside countries of the world in this respect will see that, if the industrial centre of Westphalia, including Essen, were in the hands of an enemy, it would be impossible for Germany to maintain the struggle for more than a few weeks at the most.
If. then, there is an objection to a work of this nature being established at Newcastle, it should be located at some other natural centre - at Melbourne or Sydney - where the details of production could be economically maintained. I would urge on Parliament not to authorize its establishment in the bush, where there is no labour market, no raw material, and where the cost of production, therefore, must be enormously increased.
– We could create a labour market.
– Works like this must be established in centres where it would not be possible for a gang to be thrown out of work in the event of one or two men absenting themselves for a day or two. I challenge any Minister who knows his job to say that if it is established at the Federal Capital a whole gang of men would not be utterly demoralized and upset if one or two absented themselves.
– Why, then, are all the big railway workshops in England away from the large cities ?
– The English railway workshops are in themselves hig cities.
– Crewe has over 100,000 people.
– Yes. All these places are specialized centres for labour. Honorable members must know that the proposed Arsenal will- not offer any inducement for the establishment of a large industrial centre. It would have to depend for casual labour upon centres of employment many miles distant, and which would be totally inaccessible, with the result that the output of the Factory Would not be economically main’tained. I only want to repeat what I have said in the House before. I do not wish to weary honorable members, but 1 ask them to look into the figures connected with the Lithgow .establishment, and especially the actual gas and coal con sumption necessary for the output of rifles. If they do so, they will find that, owing to the increased price of coal, the cost of turning out rifles on the Murrumbidgee must be at least 4s. or 5s. per rifle above Lithgow costs.
– What would the percentage increase be ?
– I cannot speak with any definiteness on that point. A rifle used to cost, I think, about £4 2s. 6d.
– Have you read the reports of the experts on that subject ?
– We have had many reports from experts in regard to this matter.
And dealing now with the subject of experts, I am reminded that the honorable^ member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), before the dinner adjournment, was talking about Royal Commissions and their reports. We have had many Royal Commissions, especially in connexion with Defence matters and public works, and this country has all along allowed a farce to be perpetrated in connexion with these reports. The manner in which the report of the very first Commission of Advice was handled probably explains why the Admiralty is not giving us, in my humble judgment, that serious advice which, otherwise, we might have expected to get. The Commission to which I refer was in connexion with a scheme propounded by Admiral Creswell, and referred to the Admiralty for advice. The Admiralty characterized the scheme as utterly fallacious, and indicated that the gentleman who propounded it did not seem to be au fait with naval developments. The Admiralty may, or may not, have been right; but, at all events, it was our highest court of appeal in naval matters. But what happened? When the report came back to Australia, the Government referred it to Admiral Creswell and some of his colleagues to see what they thought of _ the Admiralty! We have had other Royal Commissions in connexion with public works, and one in which the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) were interested was presided over by » gentleman of great ability. That Commission sat for many months. And what happened ?
– It was a waste of public money.
– As events turned out, it did, prove a waste of public money, because the report brought against the officers was referred back to them for their opinion ! The report of the Defence Department Royal Commission, composed of the very best men obtainable on the business side, was also referred back to the “brass hats/’ who are still there, to say what they thought of the Royal Commission! What happened, also, in connexion with the report on the Navy Department? My honorable friend, the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) cannot be held responsible^ for what has happened in the past; but ‘the report of that Royal Commission is hardly flattering either to the Minister of State or. the Department. Cabinet sat on its recommendations with all the affection of a hen sitting on a nest of eggs, from which she hopes to obtain something creditable to herself. Cabinet has decided that the recommendations cannot be accepted in toto, because the Department cannot be removed from direct Ministerial control. The gentleman who, according to the ordinary tenets of parliamentary government, is responsible for what happened in that Department, is still there, offering us advice as to what we should do in connexion with these naval works! I can only say that this policy of deliberating about the report of a Royal Commission when it does not suit the Government, and clamoring about it when it does, is a fraud upon the Australian public. So far as I am concerned, I will always hold that when a report is brought in absolutely condemnatory of the whole administration of a Department, it is the duty of the Minister responsible for that Department to retire from the Government. This is what Ministerial responsibility means. I should imagine that in wartime we would endeavour to secure greater efficiency than at any other time, but the morale of this House has fallen so low that-
– If Lloyd George had not overridden his experts, ‘we would not have had the Allied victory to-day.
– What Lloyd George did - and I think we all ought to take off our hats to him for it - was that he indorsed the opinion of the greatest military expert in the world, General Foch, as against the separatist views of his own military authorities. By that action, by following the very best opinion in the world on such matters, the Prime Minister of England rendered his greatest service to the Allied cause.
But, coming back to the question of Royal Commissions, it may be that some are intended merely to tide the Government over an awkward moment, ‘ and, though it is unpalatable to say it, I repeat that when a Royal Commission brings in a report against the administration of any Department, the Minister - if he is to remain true to all the traditions of parliamentary and Ministerial responsibility - should immediately retire.
There are ODe or two other matters to which I should like to make passing reference in connexion with these Loan Estimates. I cannot see why there should be any necessity for the item referring to the land at Fairy Meadow, New South Wales. I take it that this is in connexion with the cement enterprise.
– Quite correct.
– The Federal Capital works are suspended, and yet it appears that the Government are going ahead with the acquisition of land for cement works.
– I explained’ that the vote was for land already resumed.
– That answers my point immediately. If the land has been already resumed, there is nothing further to be said on that subject.
I do, however, make a final protest against proceeding with certain of these defence propositions, because the necessity for them is being decided at the present time upon the battlefields of Europe. Especially is this so with our Naval Bases. If this European war removes the Germanic Power from the list of our enemies, the only Naval Base3 that we could possibly require after the war would be those further north, somewhere upon an enemy’s lines of communication to Australia.
– In this matter we are acting upon the advice of the Admiralty.
– I have heard that before, and I have no doubt the Minister believes what he is saying; but I believe, also, that if the Admiralty authorities were approached at a time when they are not harassed with the pressing and immediate problems of the waT, they would be able to study local problems, and give a different answer. It seems to me that we do not realize that the British Admiralty are at the present time bearing a strain to the limit of their endurance. At the outbreak of war, and when the Imperial authorities were organizing makeshift factories for the manufacture of shells, we asked England to send out a whole establishment for the making of shells here. We estimated that we would be able to make 200 shells a week, and I point out that this output could be fired by any one of the field guns in ten minutes! Is it any wonder, therefore, that the British authorities did not provide the establishment? Every one of the men employed on such a work would be of more value in England, engaged in the oversight of the makeshift factories which were then being organized. Even if we’ could have turned out 20,000 or’ 200,000 shells a week, we could not have given equal service to Great Britain at that time. I think it is absurd to expect the Admiralty authorities to turn aside from the problems now confronting them to tell us whether or not we should go ahead with Westernport or the other Naval Bases, because the necessity for them is being decided in Europe. Whatever Bases we want in Australia will not be of that kind and for that purpose. Of that I am as satisfied as that I stand here, and it is for that reason alone that I oppose these items in the schedule.
.- I strongly support the arguments of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) as to the need of going slow in the construction of Naval Bases. Of the total amount of £2,175,633 covered by the schedule, the Navy Department wants £770,500, and the Military £276,500, leaving a balance of £1,128,633. Thus the Naval and Military Departments alone require nearly half the total amount. The Murray waters scheme, a most important developmental undertaking, takes £99,000, the east-west railway £300,000, redemption of Northern Territory loans £339,000, and the Postal Department £220,000, or a total of £958,000, leaving less than £200,000 for such important matters as the construction of railways in various parts, the acquisition of post-office sites and wireless stations, and the erection of lighthouses on the Australian coast, one of the most urgently important works imaginable. Is there any real justification for the proposed new expenditure on naval and military works? We are asked to vote under this Bill for naval purposes £770,500, and a number of additional items under war loan expenditure, including £500,000 towards the construction of the Fleet, are required by the same Department.
The defence of Australia is near and dear to the heart of every member of the community. There is no party and no politics about that matter. It is a national and patriotic duty that appeals to every Australian. But we have already expended millions, and propose to continue to spend millions, and one wonders what for. Against whom are we preparing for defence? Which nation is likely to invade us and threaten our security? Prior to the war it is well understood that we were in imminent danger from Germany, but if our anticipations about the end of the war are realized, the danger of invasion by Germany will have disappeared. I cannot believe that at the end of this war we shall leave Germany in such a position that, even if her fleet is intact, she will be a menace to the security of any part of the British Empire. The naval bases and wireless stations on which Germany had to rely if she had designs against Australia previous to the war have gone, and no European nation is to-day in a position, either in connexion with the trade routes, or coaling stations, or refitting stations, or naval bases in any part of the southern seas, to threaten Australia to any serious extent. After this war I do not think any European Power will be in a position to threaten Australia.
Mr.Considine. - Who said it was going to be confined to a European Power?
– If there is any justification for the proposed expenditure on naval works, it must be against other Powers. Who are they? Until very recently we may have had a feeling of insecurity in regard to our eastern Ally, but we may, to some extent, at any rate, consider ourselves fairly immune from invasion by that nation. If any people have the facilities for invasion, certainly Japan has. She is the only nation possessing bases in the Pacific that might possibly threaten Australia, but I am not prepared to argue to-night that danger threatens .us from that quarter. We have been protected by Japan during this war. Our transports have been convoyed by Japanese warships, and we have had positive assurances, both from the Imperial Government and from Japan, that that Power has no ulterior designs against this country. The danger cannot threaten from China, because China has neither a navy nor a mercantile fleet, and to land an invading force in Australia would require a very large fleet of transports. There is no other nation from which we may apprehend danger. The war will so exhaust the nations financially and otherwise that there will not be much likelihood of a recurrence of war for the next ten or twenty years.
– lt depends on how this war ends.
– There is not much doubt in honorable members’ minds as to how the war will end.
I can put up a good case to show that no danger . need be apprehended by Australia, and that the expenditure of this money as a precaution against invasion is a precaution against something which is not likely to happen, or, at any rate, is not in sight for the next ten years at least. Are we, then, to go on with this expenditure of £1,000,000 per year at the very least? In this Bill we are to spend £770,500 for naval works, and another £500,000 is required for the Fleet, making £1,270,500 in all. This expenditure is more likely to increase than decrease, because naval and military items have a particularly bad habit of continually increasing, as the following figures show: - In Germany in 1.905, the army expenditure was £35,000,000, and in 1914 it was £68,000,000. In Austria it increased from £13,000,000 to £24,000,000; in Russia from £39,000,000 to £66,000,000; in France from £27,000,000 to £48,000,000; and in Great Britain it stood at £28,000,000. Germany’s naval expenditure increased from £11,300,000 in 1905 to £23,000,000 in 1914. In Austria the increase was from £4,000,000 to £7,500,000; in Russia from £12,000,000 to £26,000,000; in France from £12,000,000 to £25,000,000 ; and in Great Britain from £33,000,000 to £49,000,000. We were told that that increased expendi ture was necessary -to preserve peace. One of the absurd arguments that this war has exploded, I hope once and for all, is that to be prepared for war is the surest guarantee of peace. Surely with all those increasing armaments, and that increasing expenditure, peace should have been so absolutely certain that nothing could disturb it. Yet Ave know in our hearts that the very fact that this continual preparation of one nation against the other was going on was the one thing which brought about the terrible calamity that afflicts the world to-day. We were continually reminded that these huge accounts for naval and military expenditure were necessary to establish our security as a nation. The argument is put forward on behalf of this Bill that the security of Australia demands this expenditure. I do not believe the security of Australia is threatened, or that it will be seriously threatened at the conclusion of the war. In fact, our danger will be less at the conclusion of the war than it was at the beginning. I believe our security will be established for the next ten or twenty years because of the exhaustion of the nations, and the fact that no nation can lightly enter again upon a war such as the invasion of Australia would lead to, because of the protection afforded us by the British Navy. We can, therefore, fairly look to at least ten years of security ahead - which is putting it within very narrow limits.
Before the war the national debt of Australia, which was then considered enormous, was about £290,000,000. It is estimated that by the time the war is concluded it will have increased to at least £800,000,000, .and I have heard £900,000,000 mentioned. That to a popu’lation of 5,000,000, with the enormous amount of developmental work ahead of us, is simply staggering. At 5 per cent, it will mean an annual interest bill alone of £45,000,000. Is it possible for 5,000,000 people to meet such a charge, and go on expending huge sums for purposes of which the necessity is not apparent, and for a defence that is not immediately necessary? It means that for ©very man, woman, and .child in the community £9 per year has to be found for interest alone. It means, therefore, that every productive unit in the community will have to produce £45 per year to pay our interest bill, and in addition we shall have to carry on the ordinary work of the country, including the huge developmental processes which are of such immense importance. It is too much to ask the people of Australia to bear this huge financial burden and also to provide money- for development. If during the next five years we could divert into reproductive channels the £1,000,000 that it is proposed to spend annually on naval work, what a difference it would make to this country ! If, instead of sending a stream of golden sovereigns across the sea each year, we spent the money in developing our territory and securing its full benefits, the results would be wonderful to contemplate. If for the next ten years, instead of spending unnecessarily £1,000,000 a year on naval works, we used the money to build railways and to open up the land in other ways, we should reduce our financial burden, and at the same time increase our ability to bear it. The military expenditure is almost as serious as the naval expenditure. I feel that we cannot allow our defence system to crumble to pieces, even though our position may seem fairly safe; but it seems to me unnecessary and unwise, in face of the burdens that we have to bear, to spend money on new naval establishments, ‘arsenals, depots, and the like.
The two Departments in regard to which we can and ought to save are the Military and the Naval Departments. In every country the expenditure on the army and navy is notoriously large and wasteful, and, to a great extent, the result, not of necessity, but of scares and panics, deliberately engineered by certain persons for their own purposes.
– Is that true of the British Navy?
– It has been proved over and over again that diplomatic difficulties have been artificially created to secure orders for ships and guns.
– Who believes that?
– I am surprised that it should be disputed.
– The statement may apply to Russia and to Germany, but not to Great Britain.
– I believe my statement to be incontrovertible. I have gained my knowledge of the facts from information which is available to other honorable members. I believe that every armament firm has been, at some time or another, involved in deliberate attempts to create international difficulties to serve its own purposes.
– Not British firms.
– My knowledge of the facts leads me to think that, if British, German, French or American firms could secure orders for ships or guns, they did not care who paid for them. British-supplied guns, British ammunition, British-built ships were used against Great Britain during the present war.
– -British cement was used in the construction of the German “ pill-boxes “ at Passchendaele.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has stated that it was Australian coal that was supplied to the German ships that were threatening our coasts in the early days of the war.
– Australian coal is not used on board warships. We use New Zealand coal.
– The Prime Minister’s statement was that the coal used on board the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau was supplied from Australia.
– That does not bear out what you have said about British armament firms.
– They are no more patriotic than any other. My honorable friend’s education seems in some directions to require attention. I do not ask him to accept my word in these matters, but I hope to direct his thoughts into a line of investigation that will show him that the armament firms of different countries are associated - British shareholders being interested in French and German firms, German shareholders in French and British firms, and French shareholders in British and German firms.
If in the next ten years the money which it is now proposed to spend on naval works were diverted into reproductive channels, the effect would be marvellous. The chief objection to the proposed expenditure is that it is unproductive. The money for which we are now asked is for wholly new works. In addition, there is the money that is required for the upkeep of the Fleet and of the ordinary naval establishments.
That runs into an immense sum. For this huge expenditure we get nothing in return. It will to ten or twenty years, and, should some of those opposite have their way, 100 years, before Australia gets rid of its present financial burden. But were the money spent on railways and in opening up the country, how different would our position be! The Northern Territory is regarded as a huge burden, but it is a land of great possibilities, and requires only the building of railways and the providing of transport services by sea to become reproductive. I believe that the expenditure of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 in the Federal Capital Territory would be a good investment from a commercial point of view. We cannot develop that Territory now, because of the shortage of money. Honorable members on both sides advocate the stoppage of expenditure in the Federal Capital Territory because of the shortage of money. We can ease our people of a heavy financial weight without danger to Australia, and secure tremendous advantages by the development of the interior if we divert this money from naval works to useful purposes.
I look forward almost with trepidation to the economic position which will follow this war. What are we going to do for the men who are coming back ? We have a repatriation scheme, and have voted money for repatriation, but no one has yet been courageous enough to fix a limit to what will be required, or to what we should pay. We are not prepared to say that repatriation shall cost us so much and no more. We recognise that whatever may be necessary must be found to properly treat and place the boys who come back from the war. What could we not do with the money that it is proposed to spend on naval bases and military works if it were devoted to repatriation purposes? No doubt the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) finds himself in serious difficulty at times because of the condition of the Treasury. It is essential that the funds at his command should not be pared down. On the contrary, they should be generous, so that the returned men may enjoy every opportunity.
The economic development of the country should be our first consideration.
We are 5,000,000 people who have to develop a territory of immense area and immense value, a territory which should be the home of 100,000,000 people. We could adopt reasonable and satisfactory methods of attracting population so that, instead of 5,000,000, we might have 10,000,000.
– There will be no need to try to attract people after the war. People will come here.
– The honorable member would frighten capital away.
– I am speaking not of the importation of capital, but of the introduction of men. If we had a larger population, our financial burden per head would be lighter and easier to bear, and our increased productivity would make it easier to meet it.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Atkinson). - The honorable member’s time has expired.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 10th October, vide page 6825).
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section 4 of the Entertainments Tax Act 1916 is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead : - “ 4. The rates of the Entertainments Tax shall be as follows, namely : -
– When this Bi]l was in Committee of Ways and Means a fairly general desire was expressed by honorable members that the load on certain classes of 3d. tickets should be lightened. Honorable members on both sides advanced the argument that the entertainments of children on Saturday afternoons should not be penalized at this stage of the war. I have given consideration to that matter, and although it will involve a loss of revenue, the amount of which is not easily determinable, I am about to suggest an amendment which I think will meet the objections of honorable members. It is as far as T can go, and when I say that, T think honorable members will recognise that it is not a matter of individual idiosyncrasy, but that the Treasurer has to carry a certain amount of responsibility for the preservation of the revenue at this time. I am anxious that the Committee shall recognise the amendment as a concession to what may be regarded as the legitimate entertainment of one section of the community, and not press foi’ any further concession. In that spirit, I move as an amendment -
That after the word “ shilling “ (first occurring) the following words be inserted : - “ excepting payments not exceeding 3d. for the admission on Saturdays between the hours of 12 o’clock noon and “6 o’clock in the afternoon of children apparently under the age of twelve years.”
If the amendment is accepted, it will exempt from the penny tax Saturday matinee tickets, for children under the age of twelve years.
– That is all right for the city, but children in the country will still pay the tax.
– The argument used by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), who represents a country constituency, was exactly what I am using now.
– Let him speak for his own district.
– If honorable members are not satisfied with this concession, they may probably get less. 1 recommend the amendment as a reasonable concession in respect of Saturday matinees.
– I rise to a point of order. When the Bill was in Committee of Ways and Means, some honorable members endeavoured to effect certain alterations, and were unsuccessful. The Bill having been introduced in accordance’ with the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means, I ask your ruling, sir, as to whether the Treasurer can move any amendment at this stage to his own Bill .
– Honorable members on the Opposition side were courteous enough to inform me that they proposed to move certain amendments, and they sought my opinion. I was not prepared at that stage to give any definite advice, but after investigating the matter, I told them that, in my opinion, no amendment would be in order. The question raised is one of great importance, and, foreseeing the probability of this point arising, I took the opportunity of looking up various authorities and cases bearing on the matter, and, as a result of my studies of the principle involved, I desire to make the following statement to the Committee in giving my ruling.
As regards the question of a right of a member to move in Committee on a Bill an amendment of rates of tax agreed to by a preliminary Ways and Means Committee, and adopted by the House, the latest decision on the subject is that given by a Temporary Chairman on the 20th September, 1917 (Votes and Proceedings, page 128), who ruled an amendment out of order on the ground that the question had been previously negatived by the Committee of Ways and Means when considering the resolutions on which the Bill was founded, and that the House ha l subsequently adopted the Committee’s report.
In the Imperial Parliament on 21st December, 1888, in Committee on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, (Hansard, 3rd series, volume 332, page 976), the Chairman said -
This is a Committee of the Whole House, and it is not open to a Committee of the Whole House to vary or negative any resolution which is a resolution of the House itself. (Page 979.) Those resolutions of Committee of Supply have been reported to the House, and the House has been pleased by resolution to agree to those resolutions, and it is not competent for this Committee to either review or alter the decisions which have been come to by the House itself. (Page 981.) . . . This Committee of the House is not competent to entertain any amendment which would be inconsistent with the resolutions which have been arrived at by the House itself. (Page 985.) . . .
Id reply to a question as to what was the object of putting the schedule when there was no power to move amendments, the Chairman said, “It is not part of my business to explain the reasons for the various forms of the House.” (Page 986.) He further said that it was not in the province of the Committee to consider the policy embodied in the votes; the Committee had to consider the details of the Bill to see that they were correct. (Page 989.)
In the 12th edition of May, pages 497-8, a similar principle is laid down in regard to taxation Bills, as follows : -
If any of the provisions^ of the Bill should be found to go beyond the resolutions of the Committee of Ways and Means,” or other Committee of the “whole House, as agreed to by the House on report, upon which the Bill is founded, a further resolution must be passed by the Committee of Ways and Means or other Committee of the whole House _ and agreed to by the House before those provisions are considered in Committee on the Bill, or the Bill must be amended so as to conform to the resolutions to which the House has agreed. Amendments ‘to the Bill which _ are not covered by resolutions of the Committee of Ways and Means or other Committee of the whole House, are out of order.
It seems to me perfectly clear, from the foregoing extracts, that a Committee on a Bill cannot reverse or in any other way alter a decision of the previous Committee which has become a resolution of the House itself; otherwise, of course, no purpose would be served by considering in Committee of Ways and Means such a subject -as the present Entertainments Tax Bill. AH the time spent in that Committee in debating the proposal would be practically wasted if this Committee could re-open the whole subject and deal with it in quite a different way. It would mean that no finality would have been reached when the House adopted the report of the former Committee. Generally speaking, the parliamentary principle is that a Committee on a Bill cannot alter a matter agreed to by a previous Committee and adopted as a resolution by the House. I therefore rule that the amendment is not in order.
– I am very sorry that the practice of the House of Commons and former decisions in this House render it impossible for me, at this stage, to grant the’ proposed concession. However, the Government are as powerless as honorable members opposite would be in these circumstances, and the Committee must take the will for the deed.
.- I suggest that the Acting Prime Minister should withdraw the Bill.
– T regretfully decline to do that.
– This would not be the first time that a Government have had to withdraw a Bill. The Government have realized that, they made a mistake.
– There was no mistake at all.
– If the Acting Prime Minister did not desire his amendment to be carried, I could understand his present attitude; but if he is really desirous of affording relief in respect of the lowerpriced tickets-
– The amendment will give relief to only a section of the community.
– Perhaps the Senate could make a request for an amendment in the direction that is suggested by the Acting Prime Minister; but I think it would be better for the Government to withdraw the Bill and think the matter over.
– We have thought it over..
– Would members of the Opposition vote for the amendment if it were in order ?
– I intend to reduce as far as I can taxation on. this class-of business. I made my attitude perfectly clear in the earlier stages of the Bill. I am opposed to placing a tax of 33$ per cent, on the tickets of children and a tax of only 8 per cent, on the tickets of other people.
– Will the honorable member accept the Government’s proposal as a compromise?
– I would vote for it in order to reduce the taxation on the children. If a child goes to a picture show forty times a year, paying in the aggregate 10s. for admission, it will have to pay 3s. 4d. as tax, whereas the tax upon a person who goes to a race, meeting and pays 10s. for a ticket is only lOd. The proposal is altogether inequitable. The Government are “giving it” to the children where the chicken “ got “ the axe, that is in the neck.
– Is it not exactly what your Government proposed?
– I was no longer a member of that Government when the Entertainments Tax Bill was first framed, and had I been a member of a Government which proposed a tax like this, I would have opposed it.” Apparently honorable members opposite have. made up their minds that they will vote for any tax proposed by the Government which they keep in office, even to the extent of levying per cent, -on threepenny tickets, although no alteration is proposed in regard to higherpriced tickets. The Treasurer has told us that the entertainments tax is expected to yield not more than £205,000 this year, without this Bill, but that if this measure is passed an additional £275,000 will be derived from the taxation of the lower-priced tickets. Estimates are sometimes framed on the highest scale.
– The reverse is often the case.
– The experience of the working of the entertainments tax should enable the Treasury to say what revenue they are likely to derive from this source.
– The data are somewhat conjectural.
– Last year the revenue from this tax was £240,000. It is anticipated that there will be fewer entertainments this year, but that the taxation of the lower-priced tickets will con- siderably increase this amount. However, I object to the proposal to penalize the poorer sections of the community. I raised the same objection in regard to the increased postage rate. The Government have deliberately omitted to impose any increase in the cost of telegrams, telephones or lettergrams, but have increased the postage rate on letters, which are the means of communication used by the poorer sections of the community. Honorable members opposite all voted for the bachelor tax, with- the exception of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch), who opposed the third reading of the Bill. In regard to this tax upon children’s tickets, one or two of them opposed the second reading, so that they could say to their constituents, “ We were opposed to putting a tax of 33^ per cent, on children while we exempted all the farmers from the war-time profits tax.”
– We did not.
– I think that the honorable members for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) and Henty (Mr. Boyd) voted against the exemption of farmers.
– There were more members on this side voting to include farmers in the scope of that taxation than there were on the Opposition side voting to include professional men.
– The honorable member voted for the second reading of this Bill.
– Yes, as I would have voted for the Government’s present proposal, and I will not forget who raised the point as to the legality of the procedure.
– The Chairman would have ruled it out of order in any case.
– He was given very willing assistance.
– I have been opposed to this Bill from the very start. I am opposed to putting 33-J per cent, taxation on children and only 20 per cent, on the landholders, who are exempted from paying war-time profits taxation.
– It is 50 per cent, on the land-owners.
– They will rob the people by charging increased prices.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that they will not do so.
– I do not. They aTe not all “good men” - those people who, using the words of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) to-day, could find no fat stock three or four weeks ago, yet can find plenty to-day. If honorable members opposite believe in the bachelor tax, why have they not the backbone to compel the Government to impose it? The Government propose to collect pennies from children while allowing men whom they regard as responsible for their being in office to get off with only 20 per cent, on land values. I do not .believe in the incidence of this taxation. It is not in the best interests of the community.
.- The position I take up is that which I have taken up in the past - that all profits derived from amusements should be taxed under the income tax. I object to the customer of the picture-show proprietor having to pay for permission to be a customer. To carry out the Government’s proposal to its logical end, the girl who goes into a dressmaker’s establishment should be asked to pay for the privilege of buying a dress; a person entering a butcher’s shop should be asked to pay1d. a pound for the privilege of buying a pound of chops, and the person who enters a barber’s shop should be asked to pay 1d. for permission to be the barber’s customer. I do not think the Government have given proper consideration to this measure. They have simply asked the head of. a Department to map out a Bill, and have accepted it as submitted to them. It is not a logical measure to charge those who are least able to pay for amusements per cent., and ask those who can afford to pay for the higherpriced seats about a quarter of that percentage. Those who have handed down their names as statesmen have always made the taxation rest mostly upon those who had most to spend, and least upon those who had little. If a child attends a picture show every week in the year, paying 3d. on each occasion, it will be called upon to pay 17s. 4d., of which 4s. 4d. will be taxation. The thing is infamous. Talk about child snatchers! This is “ kid “ snatching. I ask the Government to withdraw the Bill, and make the incidence of the tax fairer. I must vote against the proposal to tax 3d. tickets to the extent of 33 per cent. If a vote of the people could have been taken upon this proposal, no Government would have dared to submit it. If the Government are determined to put a tax of 33 per cent, on 3d. tickets, let them make the tax proportionately heavier on the higher-priced tickets. I should have welcomed even the small concession which the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) was prepared to make, and I regret that our Standing Orders stood in the way of its submission.
– I cannot understand why a point of order should have been taken when I offered to make it. It was very bad tactics.
– I know that the honorable gentleman does not like to be found out when he makes a mistake. He should not have made the mistake he did.
– It was not a mistake; it was declined hospitality.
– That is only camouflage. I ask the Government to withdraw the Bill. If they put a 33 per cent, tax on the 3d. tickets, it will be four times as heavy as that charged on 10s. tickets. We have a graduated system of taxation in connexion with the income tax and the land tax.
– That is what brainy men provide for.
– That is what brainy, just, and honest men do. This is not an, honest Bill, since the incidence of taxation is carried in the wrong direction. I have no desire to labour the question, but I again urge upon the Treasurer to withdraw the Bill.
.- I regret that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) was not able, under the Standing Orders, to move the suggested amendment, since it would have gone a long way towards meeting what some of us desire. My position was that if I could not get all I wanted I was prepared to accept the Treasurer’s offer as a really good compromise.
– It was only a very small crumb.
– The honorable member wants the whole loaf. The Opposition generally wanted the whole loaf, but when I cannot obtain all that I want I take what I can get, and hope to secure more in the future.I fought the Bill in its initial stages, and drafted an amendment upon which I took the opinion of the Chairman, who informed me after consuiting the authorities that he would have to rule it out of order if exception were taken to it. I knew very well that if a point of order were raised I should be “ outed.”
– The Honorable member did not expect any one to rise to a point of order.
– It is all in the game.
– The Government could withdraw the Bill.
– I urge the Government to withdraw the Bill, and to bring down a new Bill with the necessary amendment. The amendment I had intended to move was similar to that proposed by the Treasurer. It was -
That the following words be added to clause 3: - “Provided that in the case of entertainments held between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. no tax shall be imposed upon payments made by or on behalf of children of the age of sixteen years and under.”
The Treasurer was prepared to agree that no tax should be imposed upon payments made by or on behalf of children of the age of twelve years and under in respect of Saturday afternoon entertainments. Having discussed the matter with the honorable gentleman, I am satisfied that he does not wish to tax the “kiddies.”
– Many honorable members opposite desire to do so.
– At all events, the Treasurer told me that if he could possibly meet me in giving the youngsters a treat once a week without requiring them to pay a tax on their picture show tickets he would do so.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Treasurer does not know the meaning of his own Bill?
– He certainly does know its effect. He told us emphatically when introducing it that it was designed to tax young and old alike ; but he said to-night that, having listened to the debate, he was satisfied that the desire of the Committee was that children should be given a chance to see a picture show once a week without having to pay a tax.
We all recognise that the children of Melbourne and suburbs gave us a magnificent demonstration in connexion with the arrival of the French Mission in Melbourne. They gave what some members of the Mission told me was one of the finest shows they had seen in any part of the world. The children were brought out to entertain our distinguished visitors, and surely when they desire to go to an entertainment we do not wish to tax them. Their parents are not all rich people, and most of them cannot afford to pay big prices for an entertainment. The abolition of the tax on the lower-priced tickets would not involve any serious loss of revenue, and whatever loss did accrue could be made good in another direction. If the Treasurer will not withdraw the Bill, will he promise to have the amendment made in another place.
– I think I can see another way of doing what I proposed.
– I do not care how the Treasurer achieves his object as long as he does secure it.
.- I move -
That the word “Section,” line 1, be left out.
The object of my amendment is to indicate to the Government that the clause is not acceptable to the Committee, and that something more in conformity with the general opinion of honorable members should be brought in. I wish to lodgemy protest against this tax upon the entertainments of the children. Since the matter has been dealt with at considerable length, and I do not wish to repeat the arguments that have already been used in opposition to the tax, I shall content myself by moving this amendment.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- The Government have sought to do the right thing by the children, and I suggest a way, despite the desperate efforts of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) to prevent them straightforwardly doing so. In the principal Act, paragraph c of section 12 is as follows: -
Entertainments tax shall not be charged on payments for admission to any entertainment where the Commissioner is satisfied - (,c) That the entertainment is intended only for the amusement of children, and that the charge is not more than sixpence for each person. . . .
– That will not do.
– It will not in its rigorous application do, but if the Commissioner, under instructions from the Government, so liberalizes the administration as to make a bond fide picture show, where, for instance, there are a couple of comics, and one or two just a little serious pictures thrown in-
– A few clowns from the Government side of the House!
– I suggest that if those who provide films are in any doubt as to what will amuse the children, they might inquire of the honorable member, who, no doubt, would be prepared to provide films of his own. If an entertainment be provided such as is provided for children in my own electorate on Saturday afternoons, such a clause a9 I suggest would meet the circumstances; it only requires a generous application.
– I do not think it is advisable to leave this to the Commissioner.
– My friends opposite are neither prepared to accept the amendment, nor leave the matter to any one; they desire the children to be taxed in order to be able to raise a. squeal about it. I have never been so disappointed, after listening to honorable members for days, and seeing them beating their breasts, as at finding’ the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), with his tongue in his cheek, trying to prevent the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) doing what they all protest they desire. I have pointed out a way in which the situation can be met, and I hope that the Government will act either on that suggestion, or on some other that will have a like effect.
.- After this little by-play, we ought to get down to serious business. The suggestion just made, coming from the quarter it does, has already had its proper value placed upon it. I shall not reiterate the arguments used against this clause, but simply say that I am with those who are against taxing the children. Without dealing with the amendment that has been ruled out of order, I may point out that the method suggested would only partially relieve the situation, and create a .bigger anomaly than there would be if we left the Bill as it is. All the children of the community do not live in the cities, and there are no matinees that I know of anywhere except in the cities.. The proposal that has been made would benefit only a certain section, and, while I would not oppose that section having a benefit, there is an element of unfairness to which I object. To confine this relief to Saturday afternoon entertainments would not relieve the children of the poor, because these matinees are mostly in places which the children of the poor never reach. The benefit would simply extend to those who can afford to pay, and_ be at the expense of those who would still have to pay the higher price under the amendment. We are informed that a considerable revenue will be lost if this clause be omitted altogether, and that very omission shows the inequity of taxing 3d. tickets. I hope that the Government, in their desire to afford relief, will act in such a way as to benefit not only one section, but all sections of the community.
.- It is with a good deal of regret that I rise to address myself to this question, because I feel it very keenly that in this National Parliament we have not a Government better able to manage the finances of the country. I made some remarks about “ financial muddlers,” and those remarks are more than justified by the exhibition of this evening. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) has told us that we ought to deal with the . matter in a straightforward manner, and I agree with him. But why have not the Government and their experts - why has not the Government Caucus - dealt with it in a straightforward manner? We cannot think that a measure of this character was never brought before the Caucus. I was told the other day that the Labour Caucus is heaven, while that of the Liberal party is hell, so I suppose there must have been a hell of a noise when this particular proposal was considered. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has put himself in a very humiliating position, and one not worthy of the Government which he leads. We always suppose that the Government give mature consideration to all taxation proposals before they are submitted, and yet Ave have now an attempt to justify the Government’s position by a proposal to give the children an advantage of a two hours’ entertainment on the Saturday afternoon. It is quite evident that this is a class tax, and it is in an endeavour to remove the stigma which must attach to a Government proposing a measure of the kind that we have this amendment suggested by the Leader of the House. As a matter of fact, the action of the Chairman of Committees in ruling the amendment out of order is a perfect god-send to the Government, seeing that it has saved them from further humiliation, and from making themselves a laughing-stock. It is pitiable to find the head of the Government, and the Government itself, so devoid of financial ability. Why did the Government not come down, first of all, with other proposals on the business-paper, such as the land tax and the income tax. No. They prefer to test the House on a proposal to tax the children of the poor to the extent of 33-J per cent. When I find the Government ‘ of a Democracy submitting a taxation proposal to penalize the children, I ‘begin to ask myself whether I did not make a mistake when, in the early days, I strove to secure the reform of one man one vote. We know that the children have no votes; but I believe that the impression which this legislation will have upon the adults of Australia will be such that, at the next election, the Government responsible foi it. will be sent into the cold shades of Opposition.
I am not anxious to secure a seat in this House as the result of the faults of the Government; but I am anxious that the little children, who receive .so much instruction from these picture shows, shall not be deprived of the opportunity to attend them. I am anxious that our children, in the coming generation, shall maintain the high standard set up by our Australian troops abroad, which has made Australia a model for other countries to follow. I desire that my grand children shall have better opportunities than I had, and I certainly never thought that it would be necessary for me to stand up in the National Parliament of this country to protest against the imposition of a 33-J per cent, tax on children’s entertainment tickets.
The supporters of the Government have, during the last four years, had quite unusual opportunities to secure a due contribution to the revenue of the country from those who possess wealth. It is the persons who have made phenomenal profits during the war who should be called upon to bear the bulk of the taxation which the war has rendered necessary. There is not a Government in any other country in the world that has left undone those things which ought to be done in the way that this Government has. I said some time ago that the time has arrived in Australia for the adoption of a systematic method of dealing with our finances. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) seemed to agree with my statement, and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) said he was glad to find that there were honorable members on this side who believed in such a thing as systematic financing. We have muddled through with quite unimportant things in this House, and have not given the finance question, which is the greatest of all questions in government, the attention it deserves. The press organs supporting the party opposite, and especially the Melbourne newspapers, have been hammering at the Government day after day in the endeavour to induce them to adopt scientific methods of finance. We have piled up a loan indebtedness of £600,000,000, and the Government are still asking for more loan money; and now they propose, in order to raise the revenue necessary to pay the interest on our loans, that there shall be a 33-J per cent, tax upon little children’s tickets. This proposal is on a par with that submitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen) to deal with the tobacco industry by the imposition of an additional licence-fee.
It has been pointed out by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) that much of this taxation will have to be paid by the children of our soldiers. It may be said that the bulk of the taxation proposed by the Government will have to be borne by our soldiers. If they are prepared to go on with this measure, they will be only putting another nail in their political coffins, and perhaps I should rejoice at that. At the last elections no honorable member on the Government side would have dared to say from a public platform that if the party he supported got into power, they would impose a tax on the entertainment tickets of little children. This is a proposal for which the Government has received no mandate from the electors, and it is really an evasion of their election pledges which, in my opinion, constitutes a serious crime. I am convinced that the stand I am taking in opposition to this Bill will meet with the approbation of the people.
The Government may, in this matter, hope that something will be done in another place to save the situation. I am one of those who believe that the Senate is not entitled to interfere with taxation. In the New South Wales Constitution, which is the oldest Constitution of any British Dominion Outside that of the United Kingdom, and which was framed at a time when there was a property qualification, when the principle of one man one vote had not been adopted, and there was no Labour party, it was laid down that the Legislative Assembly should alone have the power to tax the people. Although provision was made for a second Chamber under that Constitution, care was taken that it should not have the power to interfere with taxation. The power of the Senate is limited in the same way, and the Government cannot transfer their responsibility to that Chamber. It may happen that, having the next elections in view, the Government majority in theSenate may deal with this measure in such a way as to preserve the existence of the Government.
I believe that honorable members on this side are justified in interposing every possible obstacle to the passing of this measure. It is quite true that we may be “gagged” if we attempt to do so; but we should stand up against this proposal. The price of wool has gone up from 6½d. to 15d. per lb. ; our flocks have risen in value by from 50 per cent, to 100 per cent. ; farmers, who, at one time, were glad to get 2s. per bushel for their wheat, are now receiving 4s. 9d. per bushel.
– Order! The honorable member is going wide of the question.
– I was endeavouring to show that this is a quite unnecessary tax. If the Government were able to say that they had exhausted every other means of raising revenue, and were, therefore, compelled to tax the children, there might be some justification for this measure; but we know well that they have not exhausted other means of taxation. In Great Britain it was found that the taxation of luxuries was a mistake, and that the proper course to adopt was to tax incomes, so that people would not have money to spend upon luxuries. That is the scientific way of dealing with the matter. It is certainly more scientific than this proposal to tax children, and the increased postage rate which has been adopted. These miserable attempts to deal with the finances of Australia make me shudder. The Treasury bench is occupied by men who have no true conception of sound principles of taxation. They are satisfied to tax the poor man’s tobacco and his beer. I hold that the Government have unexampled opportunities for levying taxation at the present time, and that it is nothing short of folly to delay effective action in this regard until theincomes of the people have been materially reduced, as they will be, after the termination of the war. Whatever may be the opinion of honorable members opposite regarding my utterances, I have expressed my views on this Bill with the utmost candour, in the hope that I shall rouse them to a full sense of their responsibilities, and cause them to devote greater attention in the future to economic questions. Not only in Australia, but in every part of the Empire, an attempt is being made to devise a more scientific method of taxation.
– -What does the honorable member call “ scientific “?
– If the honorable member will see me outside the chamber I am prepared to give him a lecture upon scientific methods of taxation. Because Great Britain has imposed a tax upon entertainments is no reason why we should follow her bad example in that connexion.
I trust that in the future there will be a keener appreciation on the part of honorable members of their responsibilities as the guardians of the finances of the Commonwealth. I am quite satisfied that the people of Australia will support ny demand for the adoption of a sounder system of finance. The proposal of the Government to levy a tax of 33-J per cent, upon children’s tickets for admission to picture shows will most certainly arouse * resentment on the part of the mothers of Australia. I shall vote against the Bill.
.- The Acting Prime Minister (Mi-. “Watt) has submitted a. proposal which he affirms is a great concession to the opponents of this Bill. What is that concession ? Picture shows are open on six nights a week, and he wishes to abandon the tax of Id. upon tickets for the admission of children on Saturday af ternoons, that is, at matinees. Now, in my own district half of the picture shows do not open on Saturday afternoons. The attendances are largest at the evening performances. Consequently, the alleged concession is no. concession at all.
– As a matter of fact, more children attend picture shows on Saturday afternoon than on Saturday night.
– Then it is a very significant fact that the Acting Prime Minister should have submitted an amendment to his own Bill, which was ruled out of order. A point of order was raised by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and the Government now attempt to blame him for the ruling which followed.
– Was it not surprising that the point of order was raised? One does not endeavour to block a measure if one wishes to get it through.
– My own view is that the concession is not worth consideration. But if the Government desired to amend their own Bill, surely they should have been satisfied, before submitting the amendment, that it was perfectly in order. The honorable member for Capricornia, as an old parliamentary hand, was quite justified in raising the point of order which he did.
– The honorable member may not discuss that question now.
– I would like to see the tax on the 3d. tickets abandoned altogether, arid an increased tax placed upon the ls. tickets. Thirty-three and a. third per cent, is too high a rate to impose on 3d. tickets. I shall vote against the Bill at every stage.
.- Like some honorable members who have spoken, I am opposed to taxing the lowerpriced tickets of admission to picture shows, and, therefore, I move -
That the words “ not exceeding “ be left out.
The, CHAIRMAN.- Probably the honorable member was not present when I gave the ruling which I did a few minutes ago. Incidentally, I may mention that he himself has ruled on a similar point of order exactly as I have ruled. I have ruled that the whole schedule was decided in Committee of Ways and Means. The resolution was reported, and the report adopted by the House. Consequently, no alteration can now be made..
– I was not aware of your ruling, sir. I know that on a former occasion I ruled in a similar way.
.- If the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) does not know how to carry on the business of this Chamber he must be taught. He ought to be familiar with our Standing Orders. Had I consented to the procedure which he endeavoured to adopt, my action might have recoiled upon me at some future period. But if the honorable gentleman is in earnest in his proposal to exempt children who are apparently under twelve years of age, he can withdraw this Bill and submit a fresh measure within the course of a few minutes. We all know perfectly well that in connexion with almost every taxation measure it is customary to appoint a Committee of two Ministers to prepare and bring in a Bill giving effect to the resolution of this Chamber. No difficulty need be experienced in that connexion, but from the expressions of honorable members opposite one can gather how” afraid they are of meeting the mothers of the children whose picture-show tickets they aTe prepared to tax. Consequently, they now desire to shield themselves behind the point of order which I raised, and which it waa my duty to take. That will form a very flimsy shield for their action in endeavouring to tax the children of the poor. It has been rightly said that there is great anxiety on the part of the Government to pass this measure to tax children 33 per cent. But what has become of the proposals to raise the income tax? And are we to hear nothing more of the proposition for increasing the land tax? I do not think the amendment foreshadowed by the Government is of great importance. Where there may be 10,000 children who would reap some benefit by that concession, there are 100,000 children who would secure concession if the amendment were accepted as was proposed at an earlier stage. I emphatically protest against the Bill.
.- The incidence of this tax is unequal, bearing, as it does, too heavily on the smaller ticket. It is disproportionate; the Government have admitted that by the proposed amendment. I would not mind voting to close up all picture shows to children under sixteen years; or there should be very rigid censorship.
– I think we should have a quorum to listen to this. [Quorum formed.]
– The Government has indicated its mind, and has proposed an amendment in all good faith. Where there is a will there is a way. I hope the tax will be so adjusted as to fit in equitably. Let us have the good, sound principle that capacity to pay shall be the measure of the imposition.
– Under the present system, where tickets of a denomination of1s. are taxed, the Government provides those tickets free of cost to the picture show proprietors. I understand that, for some reason best known to himself, the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) did not care to receive a deputation from master printers and others on this subject. But I would like him to take this factor into consideration, because the Government will now be required to print hundreds of thousands more tickets. The latter are printed at the Government Printing Office, and all are practically of uniform colour, which fact is apt to lend itself to considerable fraud upon the picture show people.
– I received fresh representations to-day on the printing question, to which I shall give consideration tomorrow.
– I have been provided with a fairly lengthy document on the subject, with the contents of which I do not think I should trouble the Committee to-night. But, with other honorable’ members, I protest against the measure. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has put the case as we regard it, namely, that the whole taxation system under this measure is inequitable and unjust, and will bear most heavily on the people least able to pay.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
With regard to the interest that has been aroused respecting the 3d. ticket problem - a problem which so unexpectedly arose - if it is possible to achieve what I desire to do in another way from that now set out, and before the Bill has been finally disposed of, it will afford me great pleasure to so arrange matters.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority … . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
. -I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Distillation Act, like the Excise Act and the Beer Excise Act, is one of the original measures passed by the Federal Parliament. Experience in administration has revealed defects which have accumulated to such an extent as to render it highly desirable that, to facilitate business, the Act should be amended. The amendments proposed are mostly in the direction of granting increased facilities to distillers and the public generally. The amendments made by clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill provide, for example, for the exemption of stills not exceeding one gallon capacity from the provisions of the Act in regard to licensing, &c. The Act requires that any chemist or student desiring to purchase and use a small glass still for scientific or experimental purposes must obtain permission to purchase and a licence to use such still. There are great numbers of these experimental stills in operation, and their use does not endanger the revenue. Owing to the cost of running them and the small capacity for output, their product could not possibly affect the Excise receipts. The present requirements have resulted in much friction and inconvenience to the public, and it is proposed to exempt such stills from the provisions of the Act. Provision has also been made for an extension, in proper cases, of the period within which application for renewal of a licence and the payment of the annual fee may be made. Under the present Act, should a fee not be paid by the 31st December in each year, the licence and the security bond given in respect thereto both lapse, necessitating fresh application for a licence and fresh security. The Christmas and New Year holidays, coming just before the date on which the fee becomes payable, frequently result in the matter being overlooked by the licensee, and while the . formalities then necessary before a new licence can be issued are most irritating, inconvenient and expensive, in view of the very serious consequences to the revenue that would be involved in any informality in the matter, the Department cannot afford to waive in any degree a strict compliance with the terms of the Act. The provision now made for an extension of the period will overcome this trouble, and is inserted wholly in the interests of the distillers and vignerons concerned. Provision has also been made to overcome difficulties in the way of distillers who desire to transact business not contemplated or provided for when the original Act was drafted. For instance, under the existing Act, a distiller, when forwarding his goods under bond to another district or State, can do so to a licensed Customs warehouse at such destination only. This may prove highly inconvenient, as he may desire to remove his goods to some port where the purchaser will pay duty on the goods as landed at the ship’s side, thus obviating the expense of transfer to a licensed Customs warehouse. The amendment proposed will make this possible. Another restriction in the existing Act which is being modified is that requiring every pipe or tube used in a distillery, when placed below the surface of the ground, to be enclosed in a wooden case capable of being readily opened, so that the pipe or tube may be exposed to view. An amendment is being proposed in clause 10, to enable the Comptroller-General, in special cases, where no possible danger to the revenue is involved, to waive this requirement. The opportunity has been taken, when these matters are being dealt with, of affecting other amendments of a minor character which will have the effect of facilitating the administration of the measure.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
.- I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Two important amendments only are contained in this Bill. The first relates to the improper use of methylated spirits. Apart from its use for human consumption, in the form of potable spirits and alcoholic beverages, and in medicines, &c, alcohol is used very largely in the arts and manufactures. Whilst the use of alcohol for human consumption is a proper subject for taxation, and is so dealt with in the Customs and Excise Tariffs, it is necessary for the welfare of industry that alcohol for industrial purposes shall, subject to a proper safeguarding of the revenue, be made available as freely and cheaply as possible. For the protection of ihe revenue, therefore, spirit for industrial and scientific purposes is made available free of Excise duty when denatured by admixture with certain nauseous and poisonous substances, which render it unfit for drinking or internal use. Whilst the spirit so denatured (or methylated, as it is commonly called) is free of Excise duty, the untreated spirit is subject to an Excise duty of 16s. per proof gallon. It will be apparent, therefore, that the substitution of the methylated for the untreated spirit would be a highly profitable transaction for any dishonest person. The denaturing substance mostly used is wood naphtha, the principal active constituent of which is methyl alcohol. . T,he presence of methyl alcohol in any substances can be readily detected by chemical analysis, and is prima facie evidence of the use of methylated spirits. In a recent prosecution brought by the Department in connexion with the use of methylated spirits in the preparation of a medicine for human use, the evidence submitted to the Court showed the presence of methyl alcohol, the chief constituent of wood naphtha. The Court ruled, however, that as methyl alcohol, though the. chief, was only one of the constituent parts of wood naphtha, and that as wood naphtha was the methylating substance mentioned in the regulations, the evidence showed only that part of a methylating substance was present, and for this reason the prosecution failed. As this decision breaks down the main defence of the revenue against the improper use of methylated spirits for purposes for which exciseable spirits should properly be used, the Act is being amended by altering the definition of “ methylating substance to include not only any principal substance specified in a regulation as a methylating material, but also any fractional part or ingredient of any such substance. The amendments relating to this matter are contained in clauses 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7. The other amendment is concerned with the safeguarding of the standard and reputation of Australian brandy. The Spirits Act provides that any spirit described as brandy must have been distilled wholly from grape wine. In the ordinary acceptation of the. term, grape wine is regarded as wine obtained by the fermentation of the juice of crushed grapes. It has been found, however, that it might also be construed to mean the product obtained by treating currants or raisins with water and fermenting the solution. The amendments proposed in clauses 2d and e, and in clause 3, remove all ambiguity in the matter by defining brandy as having been made from “wine the fermented juice of fresh grapes.” The other amendments contained in the Bill are of a minor character, and require no comment at this stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Commonwealth Button Fund - Clergymen on Transports - ExQuartermaster Sergeant Ozanne - Citizens’ Camp, Liverpool.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring under notice therecent election in connexion with the Committee of the Commonwealth Button Fund. I met the other day Mrs. Woolcott, a lady to whom I have spoken only once in the last three years, but who has done splendid work, as every honorable member who has watched the fund from its inception must know. She was honoured by the King with a title that she very well deserved. She was in control of the fund from its commencement, but for some strange reason she was treated with scant courtesy at the recent election held in the Melbourne Town Hall. I desire as the member for Melbourne to thank the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) for nominating her with Mrs. Deakin to be on the Committee. Old politicians like myself could get some hints as to trickery or guile in the way of elections from the particular election I have referred to, if we so desired. I have here a card giving a list of eighteen names as a ticket for election, as follows: - Mrs. James Alston, Councillor H. J. Barcelo, Councillor J. Dennis, Mr. Campbell Douglas, Councillor R. J. Hardy, Mr. V. E. Henderson, Lady Hennessy, Mr. A Harston, Mrs. Levy, Mr. W. J. Murrells, Mr. W. B. McCutcheon, Mr. F. E. O’Connell, Councillor Edward O’Donnell. Mrs. J. K Troup, Mr. A. S. Woolcott, Mrs. A. S. Woolcott, Mrs. Winter, and Councillor J. Waxman. On that list only Mr. Wax- man and Mrs. Alston managed to secure election. Some have informed me that their names were put on the ticket without their permission. Another ticket, which was successful in returning sixteen out of the eighteen members of the Committee required was as follows: - Mrs. Brodie Ainsley, Mrs. Herbert Brookes, Mrs. W. W. Cabena, Alderman W. W. Cabena, Mr. John Callaghan, Mr. Theodore Fink, Mr. J. Fairley,. Mrs. Hewison, Mr. H. M. Lee, Mrs. Leeper, Mr. W. A. Love, Mr. W. J. Roberts, Councillor F. J. Skinner, Mrs. Carty Salmon, Mrs. J. T. Staughton, Mr. W. J. G. Turner, Mr. Williamson, and Councillor Willis. Of that list, the only two who failed to secure election were Mr. J. Fairley and Mrs. Hewison. I understand that afterwards the Committee formed an executive committee of nine, and immediately elected as vice-presidents the two who had been rejected at the five-shilling ticket election that had been held.Thus I maintain that Mr. Fairley and Mrs. Hewison were brought in by a subterfuge. There is not a single representative of the workers on the Committee as elected. One of the successful candidates has a financial past that would make many people doubt whether he is a suitable individual to be there. I make that statement with a full knowledge of the seriousness of what I am saying. He has a great power in the press, and has seen fit to use what I might call his curly-wig style to secure his objects. Although in the past he has thanked me for having enabled him to get into Parliament, I most strongly resent what was done at this election, on behalf of everybody concerned. From the very first days of the war I have asked that all these funds should be under the control of the Audit Department. I repeat that now, knowing as I do, that men have been prosecuted in New South Wales for defalcations. I strongly resent what has been done in connexion with the button fund, and will not let the matter rest where it is. I believe that the Acting Prime Minister sent a letter to the Town Hall giving the names of the two people who were to be put on the Committee as representatives of the Commonwealth Government, but I am told that the Lord Mayor, who should have withdrawn those two names from the election, did not do so, although he knew what was in the Acting Prime Minister’s letter, nor did he let those in the Hall know it. I understand that the State Government have nominated two members to the Committee - Mr. Solly and Mr. Norman Bayles, and that the latterhas declined to act. Mr. Solly is the only representative of the party I belong to on the Committee, although there should, of course, be no parties in this matter. I mention it merely to show that the people in whom I have the most confidence have been nominated by the Federal and State Governments. I hope what I am saying now will be made public. I do not want to take the platform on the matter, for fear of injuring a good cause, but I am not content with the Committee as elected. I call it a fake Committee, elected in a faked way. I am not saying anything against the present Lord Mayor of Melbourne, in whom I have full confidence.
– What system of election did they adopt?
– I have never met any one who could explain how it was done. Why should the ladies and young girls who stood in the wind and rain through all seasons to do this good work be asked just at the time of the election, in order to put a certain party into power, to pay 5s. each to secure the right to vote? Surely after giving their services day after day they should have been entitled to a vote! The Federal franchise system could have been adopted, if necessary. The gentleman I indicated previously is Mr. Theodore Fink.
– Is that the farthing- in-the-pound Fink?
– No; but I have never yet heard that he has tried to pay his past debts, and I do not think he is a fit person to be at the head of that Fund. I am sorry to have to speak in this way, but I have had many complaints about the matter. If I had to weigh Mr. Fink and Mrs. Woolcott in the balance, there could be no doubt as to my decision. The one is dross, and the other is pure gold, as is shown by the work she has done. The following letter, which appeared in the Age of 12th October, 1918, ought also to be put on record -
We, the undersigned, Wootton, Fuller and King, of Elizabeth-street, Melbourne, Public Accountants, hereby certify that we have been the honorary auditors of the Commonwealth
Button Fund from its inception up to the present time, our Mr. King having personally conducted the audit; that we have made a continuous audit of the receipts and expenditure in connexion with the said fund; that all moneys received as per receipt blocks produced and verified by us have been forthwith banked with the bankers to the fund (the Bank of Victoria Limited) by the secretary and accountant to the fund, who is the only person who receives and deals with the cash receipts; that all receipts have been duly accounted for, and that all expenditure has been duly passed for payment by the Finance Committee of the Fund, and vouchers for all accounts so passed have been produced to us. We further confidentlyassert, in view of the unfounded rumours current concerning moneys alleged to have been taken from the fund and afterwards made good, that such rumours are absolutely without foundation, and that no moneys have been taken and no moneys made good, and that the accounts (which we have had continuously under our professional oversight, demonstrating the falsity of these statements) are well and faithfully kept. And we further certify that from the inception of the Fund Mrs. Arthur S. Woolcott has received no salary, allowance, or honorarium of any kind, and further that she has charged no outofpocket expenses of any description against the fund in connexion with her duties as honorary organizer thereof.
I intend to have action taken in the State Parliament about this matter, and in the meantime I should be glad if the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) would ask the Acting Prime Minister to insist, for the sake of the public outside, and the proper management of the large sums collected by the fund, that the two nominees of the Government on the Committee shall be members of the Executive Committee, so that they may know everything that is going on.
.- Will the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) arrange for all the papers concerning the matter raised by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer), about the free passage to Australia on transports of certain Anglican and Roman Catholic parsons in the guise of chaplains, to be made available for the inspection of honorable members? It is not clear from the Minister’s answer whether either of those faiths has been responsible for the practice of any deceit to evade the payment of passage money. We are entitled to know the facts, because if there has been any deceit or fraud prac tised, no matter what church is concerned, the persons responsible should be severely punished.
.- On the troopship on which I returned there was a clergyman who had never been in Australia, although I am pretty confident that he had been at the Front with the English troops. He had no right to come here on that ship while there was a C.1 Australian soldier in England who could not get a passage to Australia. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of our boys over there who cannot get back home because they cannot obtain facilities to do so, and no clergyman and no one else who was not domiciled in Australia prior to the war should be allowed to come out here on transports.
I have on the notice-paper a motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission on the case of ex-Quartermaster-Sergeant Ozanne. I have received from the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) an intimation that he cannot grant that Royal Commission. I intend to deal with the matter to-morrow, because I feel very keenly for Mr. Ozanne. A charge of desertion has been hanging over his head-
– Order! The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that question.
– I wish my notice of motion to be removed from the noticepaper, and will take another opportunity to discuss the matter.
– Have any complaints reached the Department of Defence about the conduct of the Citizens Camp at Liverpool? I have had the most serious complaints from a very wide area about the way in which these young men have been treated, and the distaste for military service and militarism generally that has been instilled into them by reason of the conduct of theCamp. The matter comes to me from men in such authority that, in the interests of compulsory service, a full inquiry should be held by some officer not concerned in the arrangements for the Camp.
Mr.Groom. - Have you a statement showing the nature of the specific offence?
-I have sent on an official complaint that came to me from the municipality of Kiama, but
I have since received other information which I shall place before the Minister if it has not come under his notice.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Defence will bring the matter referred to by the honorable member forIllawarra under the notice of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and ask him to look into it. As to the request of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) to have certain papers laid on the table, that will be brought under the notice of the Minister concerned, and I shall draw the attention of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to the matter raised by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181023_reps_7_86/>.